Last month, we discussed our new coffee maker which arrived set up; it would not work until I disabled Blue tooth remote operation facility. The camera system which protects our house is connected to my Wi-Fi and I can interrogate the cameras from anywhere in the world using my Ipad. Strict password control is in place to prevent others hacking into my Wi-Fi system through the camera software. However, some cameras are preconfigured to be accessible via an app which hackers can access by using the default password which comes with the system. As time goes on, more and more devices will appear to make life “more convenient” if you want to close your curtains from the car on your way home, turn on the kettle or oven, and so on, but they all increase the hacking risk. The hackers have techniques to turn household gadgets, such as Samsung Smart TVs, into spying devices which can record conversations.
A newspaper reporter employed a firm used by banks to find holes in their online security. Within minutes, the legal hacker had gained access to his WiFi through a British Gas Hive Active Heating system which is remotely controlled by an app on a ‘phone or tablet which enables the customer to remotely adjust their central heating. The hacker obtained the reporter’s address and holiday dates ( the system had been programmed to turn off while he was away) without effort. Baby alarms, which can be interrogated remotely, can be used by hackers to gain access to your WiFi and to see into the child’s bedroom. My recent copy of Which Magazine looked at the new phenomenon of smart doorbells where a video picture of the caller can be seen on the telephone of the owner, wherever he happens to be (courtesy of an App and his Wi-Fi) and the owner can converse with the caller. Which tested12 such doorbells and could only recommend three, one costing £360 and the other two £200 . All the others had shocking security and privacy risks. For example, one video doorbell (£72) sends your home Wi-Fi name and password unencrypted to China. If stolen, this data could allow a hacker to access your private data and any other smart devices you own.
With the ever increasing number of devices hooked up to personal Wi-Fi, the balance between convenience and security seems to be tipping the wrong way and, as I am not particularly “tech savvy” I shall avoid them where possible in future.
That is all a bit “heavy” and Christmas is coming so I think it is time for a few jokes.

Continue reading


Well, 2020 has certainly been a year of extremes – mostly extremely concerning!! The weather has been no exception. Following the fifth wettest autumn on record we had a winter without snow. A mild start to 2020 woke all the plants up early; spring flowers were a most welcome sight in a wet and dreary February. Then, on March 23rd when Lockdown was imposed, the weather changed and the sun shone – and kept shining through ‘til June. We ended up having the hottest, and driest, spring on record resulting in drought conditions, just when the crops in the fields all needed some rain to make them grow. When restrictions were eased in late June the weather changed and the rest of the summer seemed generally cool and wet apart from a few days at the end of July when temperatures were in the 30s. Changeable weather continued for the rest of the year. We hardly saw the sun throughout October and Saturday the 3rd was the wettest day on record for the UK. Coincidentally the sun came out again when Lockdown was imposed for the second time. One unusual weather feature has been the number of unseasonal gales we had in the summer. And now there’s all the uncertainty over Christmas. Will lockdown really be eased in early December? How much freedom will be allowed if it is? My family live far away, the grandchildren are now grown up so no longer come to stay for Christmas. Family time won’t be any different for us but, for the majority of families, Christmas is the time to get together and I feel so very sorry for them. And then there are the presents. Buying online is OK for some things but most people choosing gifts like to see what they’re buying; both giving and receiving is very much part of their Christmas. Then there are the minor details. Is it worth bothering to make a normal sized Christmas cake if you can’t invite visitors round to help eat it? How many, if any, Christmas puds should I make? What about sausage rolls and mince pies? What about putting up Christmas decorations? Will it be worth all the bother of getting the tree down from the loft and decorating it if there’s only him and me to look at it? It has also been very strange, not having any events to either report on or promote. In the lead up to Christmas there are normally so many things going on in our villages.
I’d like to say special thanks to all those who have helped others during these testing times. Not only the NHS and other key workers but also those much closer to home who offered practical help when it was needed.
However you end up spending your Christmas I hope you enjoy it as best you can. Don’t dwell on the deficiencies of this one but be positive and look forward to the next when hopefully everything will be more or less back to normal and Covid 19 will just be like a bad dream. I wonder what 2021 has in store!

Pubs, Brewing & Malting in Stoke Ferry & Whittington, Jim McNeil

Here’s a look at the brewing industry in Stoke Ferry & Whittington; a subject that is especially important at the moment as the last pub in Stoke Ferry, The Blue Bell, is under threat of closure.
And look out! Towards the end of this article there’s a quiz question. Send your answer to info@bluebellstokeferry.com by Sunday, 20th December and be entered into a XMAS PRIZE DRAW!
Stoke Ferry and surrounding villages used to be awash with pubs, alehouses, inns and taverns, brewers and maltings. As well as serving their local community hostelries were drinking, resting, and meeting places on busy market days, and for community meetings, court sessions, rent payments, auctions, Scottish cattle drovers, etc., etc. Known hostelries in Stoke Ferry, with approximate dates, are: The Bull Inn, Bridge Road (1794-1970s, rebuilt in 1920); Blue Bell, Lynn Road (1794-to date); Cock Inn, Oxborough Road (c1845-c1950s); Crown Hotel, High St/The Hill, (1790-1902); Duke’s Head, The Hill (1794-1950s); King’s Arms, The Hill (1795-1902, renamed the Crown, 1902-1939); Trowel & Hammer/Shovel & Hammer, now Trowel House, (1846-1932); Wounded Heart, location unknown (c1794-?). And two beerhouse proprietors appear in Norfolk Directories for 1836 & 1839; James Clarke and Thomas Hewson. (Source: www.norfolkpubs.co.uk)
Brewing: For many centuries Ale, a type of beer brewed without hops, was the staple drink of most people. The yeast in ale needs a moderately warm temperature in order to react with the malt which provides the sugar for the yeast to feed upon, so, back in the day, brewing in Stoke Ferry would have happened mostly in the spring & autumn months. Malt also adds fruity flavours and bitterness. Beer is 95% water plus a combination of yeast and malt along with hops that act as a preservative. The widespread use of hops began in the 1400s when Lowland brewers came over to England as refugees. Early brewing in our villages took place in peoples’ homes. It was largely carried out by women ‘brewsters’, who would heat water over their open fire and brew their beer in their kitchens. Public houses came into existence in the early-1800s. Their predecessors were: inns which provided lodging and refreshment (such as the Crown); taverns, which sold wine & food; and, the ale house, which provided simple food and ale (and later beer) for the labouring classes. The first publicans brewed their own beer, using water from springs on their premises. But gradually their beer came to be supplied and controlled by large family businesses of Common Brewers (1). By the 1850s beers of the Common Brewers dominated the trade and by this time many of them had had begun to buy up pubs to ensure a market for their wide product range.
Maltings in Stoke Ferry and Whittington. Norfolk was, and still is, famous for producing high-quality grain which was used to create malt. The inland port of Stoke Ferry with its access to King’s Lynn and the wider world made its location ideal for malting. This took place at a number of different sites including: the Crown; The Brewery, Oxborough Road; The Maltings on Bridge Road, on the River Wissey (where The Moorings is now); at Whittington (at the new ‘Maltings’ housing development); as well as at Gooderston/Oxborough Hythe.
Stoke Ferry Malting: In 1774 the large estate of the bankrupted maltster, Thomas Goddard was auctioned in 36 Lots: “Lot One. …house…with 2 Acres 2 Roods of Land…Malting-Office (2) that will steep 26 Quarters of Barley (3) every four Days; over this Malting-Office are two Granary Floors, that will hold 800 to 1000 Quarters of Corn…Lot 2. The Bull Inn…and Brewhouse… with a Toll on all Goods or Merchandize passing through the Premises…”. Lots 3-34: Consisted of 197 acres of land, mostly around Little & Great Man’s Way and the “new” Oxborough Road. Also, an orchard, tree plantation, otter holt, fishery, dwellings, and various businesses, farm leases in Stoke Ferry, Wretton & Wereham, plus a house in Boughton. Lots 35 & 36 were seats No.2 and No. 3 on the “South Side of Stoke Church”. (Source: Ipswich Journal 08.10.1774)
Thomas Salmon From c1800-30s, he owned the above maltings and Bull Inn on the River Wissey. In 1829, he is described as having at Stoke four large Mailings of a superior description for Messrs. Whitbread and Co. of London. The following year he suffered the first of a series of blows when his 17-year-old son drowned in the Wissey. In 1831 another son died of a fever. Later that same year he attended his own bankruptcy hearing in King’s Lynn. As a result his home, malting and the Bull Inn, estimated to be worth £5,000, was advertised for sale. The description included; “Adjoining the House is a capital Malt-house in complete order, capable wetting 50 quarters every fourth morning, the kiln is 28 feet by 24 feet, with spacious store-rooms for barley and malt…Also…a spacious Wharf, upon which is a Malt-house 20 quarters steep”. In July 1834 he advertised his services “as Clerk, Correspondent, Superintendent, or Agent…”. He moved to Stanground, Huntingdonshire where his wife, Elizabeth died and in 1836.
Whittington: Around 1812 the famous London-based Common Brewer, Whitbread started malting operations at Yarmouth, Southdown, Dereham, King’s Lynn and Whittington. Small-scale maltsters became squeezed out of the market (in 1840 they were thought to account for just 7-13.5% of English malt production). Hence, malting, like brewing itself, became concentrated into the hands of large producers. The present malting buildings in Whittington are thought to date from c1822.
Samuel Taylor Was the manager of the Whitbread Malting concern between 1830s-1847. Perhaps he took over this position from Thomas Salmon? As a supporter of the Whig Party he had very different political views from other local businessmen/landowners who supported the Tory Party. He was a prolific newspaper letter writer on subjects from the Corn Laws to threshing machines to efficient turnip growing. He established a wire fence manufactory in Whittington. Samuel joined with other local merchants, maltsters and millers to attend the Friday grain market on Market Hill, for the purpose of buying Corn. He was a member of the Stoke Ferry Association for Prosecuting Felons which offered £5 for information when Samuel’s home was burgled in 1839. In 1840 he was elected President of the Farmer’s Club which he established to modernise local farming practices. His 1847 farewell dinner at the Crown Inn was attended by some 50 local businessmen and landowners. At the same event three men named Childs were mentioned as having come from Bungay, Suffolk to assist Mr Taylor’s work at the Maltings.
Prize Question: When was the Bull Inn rebuilt? Send your answer to info@bluebellstokeferry.com by 20th December & be added to the Blue Bell mailing list. All entries go into an XMAS PRIZE DRAW!
(1) Common Brewers: originally only brewed beer and did not own pubs themselves.
(2) ‘Office’ here denotes a separate building where a specific task, e.g. malting, takes place.
(3) ‘Quarter’ is an old measure for barley as bought by a maltster. It equates to one-fifth of a ton, i.e. 448 lb (203Kg), which would yield approximately 80-100 lb (36-45Kg) of malt extract for the brewer.

Notes from The Borough Council

Highways Issues

It is clear that there are a number of issues which affect the A134. I thought I’d set these out. There may be others of which I am not aware and if there is anything which concerns you please get in touch with me.
Methwold road and Didlington Road junctions on A134.
There is a long history of accidents at these two points, where the” splays “ are restricted. A visibility splay is an essential safety feature of a junction. This is the distance a driver needs to be able to see left and right along the trunk road when waiting to turn out of a junction or access onto the trunk road. In both cases it is difficult to improve these to the minimum that would be necessary for a modern construction. It is also the case that both junctions have particular problems. At Methwold Road, when coming out of Northwold, there is poor visibility to the right where traffic comes a speed down the hill, due to the adjacent property and to the left where high speed traffic comes around a corner. That said, I think the exit from the Methwold side is more difficult, particularly with regards to traffic from the South. There is excellent documentation on the history of this junction, with an average of three serious incidents a year requiring the attendance of emergency vehicles. As recently as September there was a fatality ( a cyclist), and there are on average significant crashes there on a monthly basis. It does seem that we as inhabitants need to continually lobby Norfolk Highways as this dangerous site is clearly not a priority.
The Didlington Road Junction is less well documented and here the danger is vehicles approaching from the North, sweeping round the corner. There is a potential increase in problems here as Wellington Lodge has planning permission for a 70,000 Ton capacity biodigester which could mean an additional 5,000 HGV movements at this junction. The original plan was for this to service a local agricultural estate, so I am not sure where these vehicles would come from. It might be that some of these need to cross the A134. Additionally, there will be some additional use as the site has got planning permission for a Wedding Venue it was stipulated at the Planning Panel hearing that vehicles leaving this venue will be directed to the left on exit (thank you councillor Storey for your support on that). There may be an additional problem if the applied for license for the music venue at Doves Barn Meadow proceeds…indications are that traffic control was very poor at their pilot event, so I hope if this proceeds the organisers will be required to introduce active management for people leaving the site.
To my mind the minimum which must be done is to greatly improve signage on the minor roads approaching these junctions (as has been privately done at the Methwold Road Junction, well done!). Personally, the severity of the danger is such that I would like to see flashing warning lights to alert motorists, particularly at the Methwold junction. I think Highways would resist additional speed reductions to the A134, it being a “strategic road”. These have been introduced at Whittington Hill remains a dangerous stretch of road ( I think I am right in saying one vehicle was clocked at 100mph ). Early indications are that they are successful. We should remember that to be successful speed limits do need to be enforced, but I for one would not be happy with speed cameras on this road, although signs suggesting their use would be helpful.
The Mundford to Methwold by way
The second bone of contention is the continued use of the byroad from Mundford to Methwold by HGV’s. If anything, this has increased recently, and will expand geometrically if the bio digester referred to above becomes operational. I have been almost forced off the road on a number of occasions. This network of roads is very poorly finished with frequent potholes and lumps and bumps and really should be access only for HGV’s. Additionally, as these roads do not seem to be gritted and because they alternate between forested and open there are variable patches of icy roads in winter. This may be good for local vehicle recovery and panel beating services, but for the rest of us it is a very real danger. It does surprise me that this is very much a local’s short cut so you would think that regular users are aware of these dangers. Many of the cars which I see off road in winter are small, boy racer type cars and its not unusual after a frost to see two or three such incidents as these roads are not gritted.
Speed Limit Iceni Academy
Finally, there is often concern expressed at the 40mph speed limit outside the Iceni Academy. The view of Highways here is that the large numbers of parked cars themselves cause vehicles to slow down to below the limit. I’d still say a 30mph limit is appropriate, at least in term time for this site.
Whilst I am looking at Highway related issues it also seems to me as the number of electric vehicles increase then the need for these to be recharged when parked in the street grows for those without off-road parking. So I would like to see the provision of cable tracks so that cables are not laid over the pavement, with the inevitable result of accidents for pedestrians and discussions as to public liability. In Methwold, there are too many signs at the junction with the main road which restrict visibility and Highway enforcement teams need to address this too.
These are to my mind the three main issues – A134 junctions, by road HGV use and Speed limits outside Iceni. If you have other matters you would like taken to Highways please contact me.
Finally, as Borough Councillor I do not directly have any influence over Highways, but they do take into account public sentiment on road safety issues. That said, please take a note of the contact emails. The most relevant is the Highways officer for West Norfolk, Andrew Wallace, who is sympathetic and knowledgeable. His email is Andrew.wallace@norfolk.gov.uk, and if you copy me in then I can get involved! If you really want to get to the top, the relevant officer is Tom.mccabe@norfolk.gov.uk !