Although I was born in Salford, Lancashire, you could say I’m a Norfolk native. My parents brought me to Stoke Ferry when I was only nine months old and my father had been posted to RAF Marham.
At first, we lived with Mrs Brown in Wretton before moving to a flat in The Hall, Stoke Ferry followed by a short stay at Marham. Then, when my father was posted overseas, Mum and I moved back to Stoke Ferry living in Canterbury House. It was owned by Mr and Mrs Manning and Rachel, their daughter, and I became lifelong friends. Rachel was a bridesmaid when I married John in 1973.
There appeared to be no animosity, but my parents drifted apart when my father chose to continue his RAF career overseas. So eventually Mum and I moved again to Stoke Ferry, this time on the High Street, when my Mum married my lovely stepfather, George Owen. George was invalided out of the services when a bout of polio robbed him of the use of his left arm and his right leg. All the same, he would walk from Stoke Ferry to Wretton every day to have dinner with his father in Pangle cottage, though it didn’t have that name then.
The house figures on the Wretton Enclosure Map of 1818, possibly built as two-room (one up one down) workers cottage. George’s grandfather lived there in 1900 and his father bought the cottage in 1919. Since then the roof has been raised and rooms added.
It was given its name when my stepfather inherited it in a near-derelict state and took out a Council loan to do it up. The name came from a small piece of woodland owned by the family which was used as security for the loan. George was an excellent gardener and I’m always glad to see some of his flowers and an old greengage tree sill thriving there.
Until my half-brother, Simon, was born, I’d no siblings. Simon has inherited his father’s shooting skill and is now ranked among the top pigeon shooters in the county.
I started school at Stoke Ferry when George Coates was headmaster and at 11+ moved to Downham Market Grammar School. To meet the cost of the uniform, Mum worked part-time at West’s shop on High Street and also took cleaning jobs. And Mr and Mrs West were very supportive with useful Christmas and birthday gifts such as a dictionary, hockey stick and boots. After A levels, I did a 2-year bilingual Secretarial course at Norwich City College, furthering my French and Spanish. I only used the Spanish once when the police needed to ensure their instructions to a Spanish worker were understood but it’s become useful on the many holidays I’ve spent there.
Much later, in 2003-7, I did something I’d always wanted to do; I took a degree in Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Art at the UEA. I took the Maters immediately afterwards, but the cost of a PhD was too high to continue studying.
I’ve had a number of jobs, but wouldn’t really say I’ve had a career. Most of my jobs have been as secretary or administrator in education establishments. But my first job was with the public analysts in Norwich. I would record the samples of mostly food and water then type up the reports after testing. A sliced loaf of bread once contained a fingertip and a packet of crisps had a mouse’s head inside. We also test food for Which magazine.
After three and a half years I change to an easier job as secretary to the Director of PE at UEA. Haydn Morris had been a British Lions Rugby player. I now organise over-50’s badminton in the Hall named after him! One of his assistants – the Norfolk Ladies Champion – taught me to play squash and 15 years of league play followed.
Another really good employer was the Dean of Education at King Alfred’s College, Winchester. He introduced me to computers and told me I’d be the College’s desktop publishing guru! I’d no idea what he was talking about but decided to get to know more. Loved it, and became a teacher of word processing. Returning to Norfolk with this qualification, I worked part-time for 11 years at the College in King’s Lynn.
I’d met my husband, John, at Grammar School and we married in 1973. When he took a job at Guernsey College of Further Education I thought I’d be having a long holiday there but soon had 4 part-time jobs teaching IT. Eventually I became IT trainer for Specsavers whose administration and accounting centre is there. Alex, our son, joined us for 18 months and represented Guernsey at badminton in the Island Games in 2003. When we were preparing to return to the mainland, I took an AS level Archaeology course and did some practical archaeology.
I’d wanted to do Archaeology while at school! So, after returning, I started a degree course at UEA. In my second year, I was doing a required practical session in Cyprus. We excavated a series of chambers, pits and tunnels created 5,000 years ago and unearthed a cache of stone tools, pieces of pottery and one still perfect terracotta pot. Not a crack or chip, quite plain, but I wish I’d been able to keep it and not sent it to Larnaca Museum. Another significant dig was in Peru and I had a week in Amman, Jordan, on a site dating back to the times of the Walls of Jericho. There I unearthed a piece of mother of pearl pendant dating back to about 6,500BC; my oldest find.
Locally, I’ve dug at the Gayton Thorpe Roman Villa site, the only mosaic floor in Norfolk being found there, and at Durobrivac, a major roman site just off the A1 at Peterborough. Lately I have worked on the warren lodges with the Breckland Society and the wider landscape around Grimes’ Graves.
Sport has always been part of my life and began early with hockey. I played for Norfolk U15’s moving on to the U18’s and then Seniors until I left the areas in the late 1970’s. My swansong was playing in the finals of the National Hockey Cup for Winchester ladies followed by a tour of Austria.
When Alex began regular badminton training in Norfolk, it was not feasible to play hockey, nor could I play squash as there was no proper local club so I switched to badminton in Stoke Ferry. Chris Young, the Headmaster, asked me to run an after-school club which I did for over 10 years, then an after-school junior club at Methwold. In 1999, I became Norfolk’s first Sports Badminton Development Officer. I qualified as a coach in 1989, and still coach beginner adults for Active Norfolk and run a Junior Club for Downham Academy. I also play 2- 3 times a week for Downham Ladies and Mixed teams in the Ouse Valley League.
I became Clerk of the Northwold Charities in 2009. Mostly this is management of the 8 Almshouses and 24 allotments. On St Thomas day, around Christmas, the Dole is given to pensioners in the parishes of Northwold and Whittington and also from the Edmund Atmere Charity for the infirm.
My secretarial skills have continued to be useful. I was Advertising Manager for The Village Pump for several years before going to Guernsey, as well as being clerk to the Governors of James Bradfield School. Now I’s secretary to the Wretton All Saints and Stoke Ferry Parochial Church Council. Though I don’t attend church, I care about the building. This past year we’ve installed water, toilet and kitchen facilities and are applying for funds to improve the lighting and install heating, hoping this will provide the village with a useable centre.
Getting the church updated and suitable for community activities is my wish for Wretton’s future. After all, Pangle Cottage and the river bank here in Wretton is my favourite piece of Norfolk.
In 2008, I was one of a small group in the Wretton Historical Society who organised the “Wretton All Eras History Fair”, followed in 2010 by the “Wretton at War”. Both activities were highly successful. We also organised smaller events in the church and on the Green in Wretton including a lovely Jubilee event featuring “The Strollers”, the Seymour brothers being Stoke Ferry boys, of course.
My favourite holiday memories? Bit difficult to choose between so many lovely places. Borneo, paddling up a mountain stream with huge Rajah Brookes butterflies fluttering around your head; watching a wild orang-utan build its night-time nest, or surreally hot – air ballooning over Cappadocia in Eastern Turkey, or swimming in the Sea of Galilee on the last day of October, with the lights of Tiberius twinkling on the opposite shore; just like a Christmas card. That’s just to begin with…..
To finish, a few, more bits and pieces…. I prefer Radio 4 to either TV or theatre, read Margaret Drabble and Rose Tremaine and really love mussels; whilst my current favourite restaurant is the King’s Arms, Shouldham, though I remember with fondness the Workshop in Norwich. Good student fare! And I hate apostrophes, wrongly placed, or missing and litter.
I think you’ll agree that this is enough, except to hope you have found it interesting reading.