Sunday, 8 June 2014

Ringland to Taverham by canoe

Taverham Intro

ON A summer’s day River Green at Ringland quickly fills up with picnickers and paddlers. But within a hundred yards the canoeist leaves civilisation behind. The river winds left and a long row of elegant poplars demand to have their pictures taken, their trunks reflecting in the crystal clear water.

Canoe Ring to Tav 085

Then the Wensum begins a long lazy meander. Cattle graze the meadows to the left while horses are stabled on the right bank. Today, an early June day that felt like hot July, I heard one solitary cuckoo and caught a glimpse of a retreating kingfisher. Banded demoiselle damselflies flitted from leaf to leaf by the dozen, the blue-black band across their wings making the males instantly recognisable.

Canoe Ring to Tav 082

Swans too were on patrol. Give them a wide berth and you’ll be fine. They are very territorial, especially when protecting a nest. If they curve their neck back and half raise their wings, watch out. It’s called “busking” and it’s a warning to keep away. I’ve yet to use my paddle, but I’ve felt safer with it on a couple of occasions.

Nature has provided a new bridge on this stretch. A poplar has fallen clean across the river, creating a dam to be by-passed. Was it the wet winter of 2013/14 that did the damage? Then the river gets more claustrophobic. Dodge and weave around low-lying branches of alder and white willow.

Canoe Ring to Tav 020

Costessey Lane gets closer in time to catch a view of the white-washed Beehive Lodge, originally one of the lodges for the long-demolished Costessey Hall. Then road and river diverge, leaving longer and longer gardens for the selection of static caravans and houses which lie undetected by all but us river-users. Almost every one has its own home-made staithe, even if it’s just scaffold poles and aluminium ladders. Canoe Ring to Tav 031And then the country becomes more open again. To the left, the grounds of Taverham Hall prep school, to the right, the Taverham  Mill nature reserve. After three miles on the river, the sluices here mean our journey’s at an end.

Turn around in the slower water dominated by yellow water-lilies and head for home.

* Non-natives to Ringland need a £5 annual licence to launch from River Green in Ringland. See the Ringland Parish Council website for details.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Ringland: where was the Union Jack?

KingOfPrussia pub

RINGLAND has just the one pub now, The Swan with its idyllic position at the end of The Street, overlooking the Wensum.

But in the old days there was another. It gloried in the name of the King of Prussia until 1915 when some local soldiers ripped the sign down. Clearly the landlord then decided that a name-change to The Union Jack might do wonders for trade in the context of the First World War. 

The same boozer with its different name apparently flourished right through until the mid-1960s, but where was it? Looking at this photo my money would be on The Street up towards the church? Can anyone tell me for sure? Please email me at if you can help.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Drayton Old Lodge: 1914 and all that

DOL 026 sq

REMEMBER “EBR” inscribed into the wall at Drayton Old Lodge? Well, after a bit of help, I’ve found the man those initials belong to. The details confirm that the Old Lodge was indeed built as private house rather than the Nurses Home which it later became.

The timing is quite poignant. Here was a successful man returning to Britain to build a mansion complete with grand hall, billiards room and drawing room. But as the first bricks were being laid, the First World War was erupting in Flanders. The house – with its sculleries and servants’ quarters - was being built for a world which would no longer exist by 1918. Just look at nearby Costessey Hall – demolished in 1920 - to see what happened to several old estates in this era.

Clearly Drayton Old Lodge did survive, though I haven’t yet been able to establish exactly when it became a Nurses Home. The late 1920s or early 1930s is my best guess at the moment.

Finally who was EBR? Well, you’ll have to wait till the book gets published for the full details.