Wednesday, 24 April 2013

It's not wrong, but it is happening

North Norfolk is blessed with great places to shop and eat. No question about that - and clearly they're wanted or they wouldn't keep opening. But are they? When a new supermarket is proposed, a predictable uproar ensues.  The death of the High Street. The growth of anonymous standardisation. The loss of money cycling within the local economy.  But what about the growth of the farm shop and the garden centre?

On the face of it, what possible objection could there be? Local jobs for local people and all particular to the area.  But the reality is possibly different.  What starts as a shed selling locally grown fruit on a seasonal basis, realises that it can expand its business year round by diversifying what it grows, or (very quietly) buying in.  They have space, crucially they have parking and they're not seen as incomers or corporate big bad business.  There then follows a cake shop, because we all like home-made baking.  Then a butcher. Then a country clothes shop - and so it goes.

We all know them.  They're great places to go, the right people go there. The fit-outs get trendier, the cafe's start competing with local pubs and in some cases start their own restaurant. But at what cost? Not surely the sacred High Street?  This is creating new demand or so the story goes, but I'm not so sure. It's great to see local outlets supporting local makers and suppliers but it doesn't stretch the imagination to see that the local butchers, bakers and delis with the overheads and limitations of village and town locations will start to feel the pinch - maybe even relocate themselves - and the rural High Street (if such a thing exists) will have gone. Just as the Banks, Post Offices, and Pubs have largely gone to be replaced by sensitive residential conversions - 'The Old Bank' - so my guess is that the remaining food shops are next.  Leaving the convenience store if you're lucky...  and people like us.

It's not wrong, but it is happening because thats the way we live now. Just saying.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Spring in my step

Living and working in one of Norfolk's best bits, I find myself in a dilemma each day. Where to walk? Top two are rather obviously Overy Staithe and Norton.  This week it's been a narrow victory for Norton  - but more of that next time. This week started with fantastic light at the Staithe.

Looking the other way towards Holkham and, almost by chance, an almost japanese image of what I now know is an Egret in amongst the reeds and reflections.

And just to round it off, a sunset. Routine, normal for Norfolk.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


It seems we might just be seeing the end of one of the most drawn-out winters, with the prospect of double-digit temperatures on Sunday. In actual fact we seem to have got away quite lightly here in Norfolk, particularly because we missed out on the heavy snow a couple of weeks ago.  That said, it's clear that not only is new growth in the gardens, trees and hedges noticeably late, there look likely to be high numbers of plant casualties.

Before the cold it was the wet, with seemingly nowhere exempt from an excess of ground water. The last few weeks of persistent dry cold have changed that and nowhere is the rapidity of recovery more noticeable than on Norton Marsh, where the paths have dried out to be replaced by a hard and cracked crust.  Despite reports of the impact all this has on life and business, visitors continue to head our way - although there have been moments when it's been hard to conceal surprise that there's anyone out there for pleasure. However, my daily perambulations at the Staithe and out to Gun Hill always serve to remind just why they continue to come.

Not many are lucky enough to have this on their doorstep - and that's on one of the coldest days. On a good day it's just extraordinary.

The downside to the apparent farewell to winter is, of course that it's less likely that you get it all to yourself!