Text and photos by Andrew Gorton.
One rather damp morning, I decided to cycle to the ruins of a local castle (or 'fortified manor' as the English Heritage sign has it), at Baconsthorpe. I took a path along a recently ploughed field towards some woods, and soon found my way blocked by a style. Being too lazy to lift the bike over I retraced my route 50 yards and took a left turn, hoping to find another way around. Pedalling away, I was only half-aware of the fluttery, squawking disturbances in the line of trees to the right. Suddenly a piercing whistle attracted my attention. An irate capped face, that of a gamekeeper or some such, was peering at me through the undergrowth. ‘Excuse me; this is not a public footpath. You’re disturbing the pheasants!’ Chastened, I headed back the way I had come, half expecting some buckshot to pepper me as I fled. I never got to see the castle that day.
This incident brought home the fact that I, a London boy through and through, was now living in the country. There have been a few others since then. I captured the scene below on camera a few weeks back. My bedroom window overlooks a farmer's field, which has had several types of crop planted in it over the 4 years I have been here, including bright yellow rapeseed one time. The smell of that stuff was overpowering when the wind was right. It occurred to me that I would never have seen this view in North London! I found it rather evocative. There are several fields around my area, and you can often see various different agricultural machines at work, combines, tractors spraying clouds of fertiliser.... Sometimes you can also see the fruits of the farmers’ labour. I once came across 5 or 6 large sacks about 3 foot square by 6 foot high stacked on the edge of one field by the road. Noticing one was half-full, I sidled up and found it full of potatoes. I could easily have filled my pockets but I stayed my hand. I wish I’d taken some now. *
There have been a few other rural encounters. One day I was walking through my local National Trust property of Sheringham Park and I suddenly came across a herd of cows. They seemed well trained, if that term could be applied, as they kept on the fields either side of the path. The thing was, I could have walked up and tried to milk them or something. Again, that would never have happened where I come from. It actually makes good ecological as well as agricultural sense to graze them there, as keeping the grass cropped encourages biodiversity in the form of wild flowers and the insects they attract.
|Some cows contemplate their narrow escape from a guerilla milking incident.|
So what of the county of Norfolk? It has been said that nothing ever good came from here, but I’d disagree. Norfolk has produced many people of note, foremost of whom, in my opinion, have got to be Lord Nelson, Stephen Fry and Henry Blogg, the most decorated of lifeboat men. Norfolk has also produced heroes in the mould of Edith Cavell, a nurse serving in Belgium during World War 1, who was executed by the Germans for helping some British servicemen to escape capture, as well as the Iceni queen Boudica, who led a doomed revolt against the Romans. The county has produced its own share of sportsmen, artists and writers, including Philip Pullman, a literary hero of mine.
Speaking of literature, Norfolk has influenced the creator of one famous detective to resurrect him. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was staying at the Royal Links hotel in Cromer, recovering from a fever picked up in Afghanistan. It was when dining with a friend that he heard an interesting local legend of Black Shuck, a large, ghostly black dog that was said to cause death to whoever beheld it. And thus, The Hound of the Baskervilles was born. It is rumoured that, to this day, Norfolkians have never forgiven Conan-Doyle for relocating the story to Dartmoor.
Andrew Gorton is an Open University student, London born but now living on the north Norfolk coast.
*The Bee in no way condones potato rustling. Ed.