The first of what is hoped will be a regular feature from one of our resident's who wishes to sound off about local activities.
Let me introduce myself, I am a resident of Stoke Ferry. I have been living here for over 15 years and I am a self confessed grumpy old man! These days I spend a lot of time moaning to my poor wife about all the things that "tick me off". So now I have decided to share my thoughts with the readers of The Village Pump! I am sure that some readers will empathise with me, others will be horrified or may even be disgusted with my views, but do I care if I upset people? Not really! The beauty of the Great British way is that we are able to say what we think and with such excellent publications as the Village Pump, we are able to share our views with everyone else.
Recently, my wife and I spent a few days on one of those "city breaks" in the Med and, thanks to the so-called global warming, the weather was glorious. We happily mingled with other tourists and saw all the sights. As we walked around this fabulous old city I was struck at how the very old and the ultra modern blended well together. The local people don't seem to notice that they are surrounded by huge amounts history; they just accept what they have. On my return to the Stoke Ferry I started to look at the buildings we have here. We seem to have a much different view on buildings. In the UK we try to make our houses look so much older than what they really are. We try to give them character, we try to build them in a style of years gone by, then we fill them with high tech gadgets, parking our ultra modern cars in the drive way. We have a huge array of cables going into the houses and bolt satellite dishes onto the walls; we put fake statues in the garden and put decking in our tiny gardens. And then, to top it all, we then install an outside cooker in the corner.
Much has been written in the "Pump" about the factory in the middle of Stoke Ferry, how the plain grey structure dominates the sky line; how the large environmentally damaging lorries thunder through the narrow streets and how the smell emanating from the Mill is...well, less than pleasant.
I was walking down the high street recently and was so pleased to see one of the houses is having the cement rendering removed from the house exposing the beautiful stonework underneath; there is something so warm about the stonework. I look forward to when the rest of the rendering has been removed and the house finally looks as it did when it was first built. However, when you look across the road, Park House stands out like a giant concrete abomination with it's cold grey exterior and "fake" stone blocks etched into the wall. I don't really see the difference between Park House and some parts of the Mill, except that the Mill is a working building which sacrifices character for functionality!
There have been some very vocal comments from a few of the "outsiders", who mostly live in the High Street, complaining about anything and everything to do with the Mill. They are quite clear in their aims; they want to Mill closed. But let's just take a moment to think this one through. What happens when the Mill finally does close? The livelihoods of some of our residents will be lost at the stroke of a pen; men who have worked at the plant since they left school will be destined for the scrap heap with little hope of employment in West Norfolk. What will become of the land that the Mill occupies? Obviously the plant will be demolished, the land cleared, then what? Housing?
Some wealthy developer will move in, build 4 or 5 bedroom executive houses, all identical looking faux Georgian houses with neatly manicured lawns and off road parking for 2 large cars, or maybe there will be 3 or 4 bedroom bungalows built, aimed at the retired and advertised in the prosperous south east, promising a pleasant lifestyle in a idyllic Norfolk rural village. I don't think so. With current government thinking it will be high volume low cost houses, rack'em and stack'em style. We will then see even larger gangs of bored kids wandering the streets intimidating local residents. We will have young males using the still narrow streets as a race track trying to impress the girls and each other with their loud exhausts and even louder stereo's. The small problem of drugs in the village will become a large problem of drugs, with drugs comes crime, with crime comes violence and with violence comes despair! Welcome to the future of Stoke Ferry.
Am I over hyping things? No! Look at Downham Market. The town has almost doubled in size over the past 10 years with row upon row of box houses with little or no character. A quick read through the Lynn News and you will see that crime has increased in the area, particularly violent crime. So I say to all those who moan about the Mill, and you know who you are, stop your moaning. If you didn't like the look of the Mill when you agreed to buy your house, why move here? Those who were born and bred in Stoke Ferry like things just the way they are. They have a good quality of life. The moaning of a few selfish idiots, who can't see past the end of their noses, is going to spoil Stoke Ferry for all eternity, but I doubt if they will really care as they will sell up and move to another village leaving the rest of us with their legacy.
I visited the "Stoke Ferry Festival" last September and like many people I sat on the Hill and watched the world go by whilst drinking my overpriced coffee and one thing struck me - the world wasn't going by, because in the world I live in there are children. There was a huge absence of teenage children; the whole event, on the face of it, was aimed at the 40-somethings and above. The music was...well different, like nothing I have heard before and it will be too soon if I hear it again! OK it wasn't my cup of tea. After all, music for some is a cacophonic disaster for others! However, the only reason some people applauded when they finished playing was because they had finished playing.
Please, for this year let's try and entertain everyone and not the few. My biggest criticism with the Stoke Ferry Residents Association is that most residents have no idea what they do. The association was started to ease the transition of council housing from the council to the housing association, and yet 99% of committee members are in private housing. For last years "festival" the association managed to secure huge amounts of funding from various sources; where did all the money go? What was it spent on?
A few people have mentioned to me that they were under the impression that any money raised would go towards local groups, but from what I can see from the minutes of the meetings no money was raised yet a huge amount of money was handed over to the association. A lot of money seems to be spent by the residents association on the old church in the village centre. I stress the term "old" church; this is not a church anymore, it was sold privately. I note from recent editions of the pump that it is still being misquoted as a church, misrepresentation I think! Why are the Residents' Association taking it upon themselves to financially support this building? Stoke Ferry already has a Village Hall and Community centre; we don't need another community based building, especially one that is not owned by the village. Why are the residents association buying chairs from eBay and I presume paying for the "lean to". The old church used to have lots of pews in it, but the current owner sold most of them. When the village hall needed new chairs they raised funds for them; they worked very hard without any financial gain to provide a comfortable cushion for our overweight backsides where as the Residents' Association make a couple of phone calls using money they were given and provide chairs for a building that doesn't even belong to them.
I do hope that the people of Stoke Ferry wake up and smell the coffee. This village is being overrun by people who don't care about Stoke Ferry only themselves. They say they work on behalf of the village yet they appear to line their pockets with our money and are quietly destroying our way of life. I am not making any accusations of illegal wrong doings, but I am trying to ask some questions that I hope will be answered.
Well that's all for now, I am sure that by the time April edition is due something else will have got my back up and I will have something else to moan to my wife about. And one of those things is Stoke Ferry Parish Council!
A Wissey Valley Veteran
(Name and address supplied)