diamond geezer

 Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fancy riding a late 20th century railway line where you can sit at the front and pretend you're driving the train? London has the DLR, but East Anglia has the MNR. And I'm nearer the latter than the former at the moment, so that's what you're getting.

The Mid Norfolk Railway runs from Wymondham to Dereham, in that central swathe of the county where Broadland tourists rarely pause. It almost links to the main Cambridge to Norwich railway but not quite - travellers getting off the train at Wymondham face a mile long cross-town walk. The connection was severed when passenger service to Kings Lynn closed in the 1960s, and the Mid-Norfolk Railway Preservation Trust haven't been able to link things up again. Instead the southern station is a halt in the Tiffey valley beneath the twin towers of Wymondham Abbey - the Norman monastery church where my brother got married [photo] [photo]. Hang around on the platform for long enough and a train will eventually pull in, occasionally steam-driven but more usually a diesel. Beat the small children to the front seat and you can look out through the cab window straight along the tracks all the way to Dereham.

The river valley's pretty, if not outstanding, with a waymarked footpath alongside for the first miles or so. The first station is at Kimberley Park, formerly the halt for the local stately home, since converted to private domestic use. Grown men with flags and whistles keep an eye on each level crossing, closing the gates in the face of bemused traffic on rural lanes. At Thuxton there's a passing loop, plus a slightly more substantial station, but without any significant nearby population to make stopping services worthwhile. Cutting follows embankment on the scenic curve to Yaxham, which has the sort of station that period dramas hire for filming. And then, oh, a rather grim industrial estate and an gateless automatic level crossing beneath the concrete span of the A47 dual carriageway. Journey's end.

Dereham station has the air of a 1950s British Rail interchange, which is deliberate, from the luggage trolley on the main platform [photo] to the old white illuminated nameplate high on a concrete post [photo]. Your newly-arrived diesel railcar or steam train will blend in perfectly, although the illusion is likely to be shattered by a collection of Inter City coaches parked up alongside in a motley state of repair. Keeps the volunteers busy, all this restoration and renovation, while the shop by the ticket hall helps to keep the place ticking over and funded. They know their target audience in the shop - men who like buying books and models and DVDs about trains - but there's plenty of not quite so specialist stuff too if tea towels and fridge magnets are more your thing.

It is, perhaps, a mistake to visit Dereham on a Bank Holiday Monday. There's not much to see and do down the High Street, unless you fancy a shopping trip round Poundland or watching The Inbetweeners at the Hollywood Cinema. There is a town museum inside quaint old Bishop Bonner's Cottage, but that's closed on Mondays. Still, if nothing else, you can always escape by steam train.

Like the DLR, the MNR are planning a northward extension to an ill-frequented station in the middle of nowhere. Unlike the DLR, there's no chance of it opening anytime soon. The Mid-Norfolk Railway own the disused track through the northern suburbs of Dereham and out into the surrounding countryside as far as North Elmham. They hope one day they'll reach Fakenham, but the short-term target is County School where the line once split for Wroxham and the Broads. At the moment this lonely spot boasts a picnic site and rail museum, but you can only get here by car which isn't exactly ideal. 17 miles of track would make this one of the longest heritage railways in the country, and maybe even useful if only they could connect it up at both ends.

There is one decent sightseeing spot north of Dereham, and that's Gressenhall Museum of Norfolk Life. The attraction is based around an old workhouse, the largest in Norfolk, which visitors can wander round to explore various pauperish nooks and crannies. The displays are a disturbing reminder of how poorly the weakest in society were treated in the century before the welfare state came along, and were grateful for it. A host of rural exhibits fill two floors, from giant Victorian threshing machines to sharp implements for castrating cockerels. And across the road there's a full working farm, where Suffolk Punches still plough the fields and the harvest is brought in old-style. For the past couple of days Gressenhall has been hosting its annual Village At War event, where everyone pretends it's 1942 and dresses up appropriately. GIs camp out behind the cafe, Land Girls dance to the Chatanooga Choo Choo, vintage vehicles park up on the lawn and sergeant majors pressgang visitors to do drill in the courtyard. Even Winston Churchill pops by, to wander amongst the crowd and give the occasional motivational speech. It's all extremely well done, and a lot of fun for all the volunteers in period costume, which is how come I managed to spend five hours there yesterday. Mid-afternoon the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flew over, which is the third time I've seen their Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster this year. All this, plus two rampantly rutting pigs in the upper field, made for a memorable Bank Holiday day out.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards