War Memorial Gary Trouton

Stoke Ferry Common

October 2003

A restrospective look at Stoke Ferry from an early contributor of the Village Pump who has sadly departed this mortal coil.


It is not only the people who have spent a lifetime in Stoke Ferry who have seen changes in the local environment. We came to live at the School House in 1953, and I remember how attractive the Common was then, before the construction of the "New Cut" (the Barton Mills to Denver Relief Channel), and of course, before the building of the Anglian Water Authority's premises.

The road now known as School Drove was then called Limehouse Drove, and near the point where it reaches the Common, with pathways branching to right and left, there stood Limehouse Farm, a small stone building, then occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Watson and their three daughters. They had a cosy home and a pretty garden, but few facilities. They fetched their water from a stand-tap in the school yard, and their newspapers were delivered to School House.

On the Common itself were three ponds, one of which was very large and fringed with bulrushes and yellow irises. It was a great place for finding frog-spawn. Beyond this was a beautiful large wood, of which only a fragment remains. Early in the year it was carpeted with double and single snowdrops. Later there were great expanses of bluebells, and many primroses and violets. I was never without posies of wild flowers gathered by the children who loved to explore this delightful spot.

If we took the path to the left which now passes the rear of the Water Authority houses, we came to Red Gates, and here the River Wissey flowed, sparkling clear, rich in fish and excellent water-cress, in the shadow of willows and wild roses. Several times I saw a kingfisher at this spot. My husband taught Richard and I to canoe on this bit of river. Sometimes we hauled our small sailing dinghy down to Red Gates, and from there we sailed down the Wissey to the point where it joins the River Ouse, then on to Denver Sluice.

On one such trip we had a surprising experience. It was during a rare heat wave, and we had noticed cattle from surrounding land standing with their feet in the river to keep cool, but it was startling to hear loud splashing behind us and to see a cow swimming purposefully down the middle of the river. We quickly pulled into the bank for safety, and watched it pass and disappear round the next bend and out of sight, with all the determination of a Channel swimmer.

Doris E Coates

Previously published in "Glimpses of Norfolk Life" & The Village Pump

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