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History & Holidays

Richard Bell’s Wild West Yorkshire nature diary,  Saturday,  5th September 2009

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Martham Broad
Potter Heigham bridge
Brass-rubbing note
Boat trip, West Somerton dyke
Herringfleet Church
Elizabeth Berney, memorial brass, Reedham church
Norman arch
smock mill

ON A RECENT drawing weekend I found one location familiar. As Barbara and I walked alongside the dyke towards West Somerton drainage mill at Martham Broad, I realised that I’d been here on a family summer holiday in August 1966, when we’d hired a rowing boat for an hour. I was 15 at the time and, as I had on 4 or 5 previous summers, I kept a holiday journal. Add these to my subsequent sketchbooks and in the attic I’ve got half a century of summer memories!

My mum’s influence comes across. She’s always been hooked on history. Not the awful ‘Social and Economic History between 1796 and 1851’ that I was currently studying for my O-level exam, a dreary catalogue of metropolitan commissions and acts of Parliament. The subject was taught from blackboards and duplicated notes, with hardly a picture in sight, no original documents to handle and not a single field trip, even though we were surrounded by mills, canals and railways from that period.


My mum’s version of history is more the ‘bad kings and good kings’ variety described in 1066 and All That. A series of rattling good yarns, concerned with real people rather than populations, with art and architecture - the products of the human hand - rather than the products of bureaucrats and lawyers. History that you can go out and touch and feel.

Hands-on history in Norfolk included brass-rubbing. I called at a cobblers for a stick of heelball (a chunky hard black wax crayon) and at a village stores for a roll of lining paper and we set off brass-rubbing.


In Reedham church the memorial brass of Elizabeth Berney in her butterfly head-dress (above, right) dates from 1473.

Potter Heigham bridge - I couldn’t help thinking of a scene from I’m Alan Partridge, when we revisited last month. Thankfully since the 1960s they’ve removed the planks blocking the side arches!

Smock mill, Herringfleet

Herringfleet church