This week has been a mixture of education, reunions and “Happy” days.
Green Britain Centre
The family we are currently sitting for told us about a local wind turbine which you can climb to the top of. Despite my slight aversion to heights, especially ones that wobble, I decided if we managed the Willis Tower in Chicago I could cope with anything. The Green Britain Centre is tucked just behind Waitrose on the edge of Swaffham. It had a variety of Easter activities going on for children when we visited. All, of course, with a green theme. We also had time to look at Greenbird. It’s the fastest wind powered vehicle in the world. It is part aeroplane, part sailboat and part Formula One car and reached a speed of 126mph. There was also a very snazzy electric car just to prove that don’t all have to look like a family hatchback.
Before we knew it, it was time for our tour. About a dozen of us headed outside with our guide to access the tower. The guide explained that most turbines just have an internal ladder to reach the top but this one had been specially designed for visitors and had a spiral staircase and at the top an external enclosed viewing platform. He said that the turbine was switched off for maintenance but the blades would still move slightly which in turn would make the tower wobble a little. Don’t panic!
There are 300 steps to the top and two platforms on the way to take a breather and have a bit more detail on the specifications of the turbine. As we wound our way higher the toward the top, the narrow and the continually circling tight spiral staircase became hypnotic. Despite the cloudy weather we had great views over the surrounding countryside and gardens of the centre where there are a lot of green initiatives under way. It wasn’t necessarily windy but we felt the odd wobble as the wind buffeted us. The louder noise we heard at one point was the whole blade system changing direction in line with the wind direction. Occasionally we would see a huge turbine blade drift by which is when we realised just how huge these blades are.
The guide also gave us his enhanced version of the night in 2009 when a UFO flew close to a turbine and stole a blade. Local residents reported seeing glowing lights in the sky that very evening. It turned out that the blade had failed due to mechanical failure and the missing blade was found in the grass not far away. It helped publicise alternative energy sources I suppose.
A Long Overdue Reunion
34 years after first meeting and 11 years since last seeing each other, we met up with my good friend, Joy and her husband John. We met when I started work at Norfolk College of Art and Technology in 1983. She took me under her wing to show me the ropes and we became firm friends. As soon as we knew we would be in Norfolk, a reunion was on the cards. We met up for lunch at The George Hotel in Swaffham and spent a couple of hours catching up on family news and travel adventures over a very nice lunch (with sauces!). The time just flew by and all too soon it was time to head home to walk Happy. Hopefully we can do a little better than the 11 year gap between our last get togethers – we will keep a keen eye on the Norfolk house sits and HelpX opportunities.
The Lost Village of Houghton-on-the-Hill
One of our many walks whilst here in North Pickenham has been up to Houghton-on-the-Hill and what an intriguing place it is.
It was never a big village but had at least 20 houses and a farm. The once prosperous village began to decline during the 16th century until by the early 19th century only a few cottages remained. These survived a bomb dropped from a Zeppelin during the First World War which landed in the churchyard. By 1937, however, the church and village had been abandoned and in 1990 the last cottages were demolished. The church was rediscovered as an ivy-clad roofless ruin in 1992.
This was when Gloria Davey went on a WI walk and on her return told her husband Bob, who was a church warden to another local church, about the ruin. He then tirelessly dedicated the next 10 years bring the church and churchyard back to life. During the restoration, wall paintings dating back to the Norman Conquest were discovered and are the earliest known large wall paintings in the country. Not far away is the site of a Roman villa and a Saxon settlement. Wouldn’t the Time Team love this place?
Final North Pickenham Thoughts
We have been so lucky to be able to have the mix of a comfortable home, the chance to see friends, some lovely walks, sunshine, interesting local places to visit and, of course, a lovely “Happy” ward to look after. I have even had the opportunity to get a few craft projects off the ground with the kind offer of use of Diane’s sewing machine. Jo heaven!
So the sewing machine is packed away and it is bye bye to East Anglia for now but I am sure we will be back. For now it is a few train journeys south to another lovely county of England. Can you guess which one?