Hello from Broad Norfolk
What is it about Norfolk that captivates?
That it is a place with a natural beauty and charm is beyond question. It is a place of wide open skies and languid rivers, of bustling towns and sleepy villages and you need not travel far within the county to find the solitude of its abundant nature. It is a place that expresses a kind of reserved wildness, It hints at it rather than proclaiming loudly, a primal nature hidden just beneath the surface of it’s calm expression. Any native will tell how quickly its mood can change. Clear skies can quickly succumb to angry storms with winds that rip, unrestricted, across an open landscape and gentle seas that entice one day can pound and scour away the ever giving coastline the next. But it is this alluring yet unpredictable quality that gives it an almost elemental character formed as it is out of bountiful earth, fed by sustaining waters under skies that are abundant reservoirs of life bearing air and light. Norfolk has a charm and character all her own.
You could claim that as natives of the place we would say this. But this has nothing to do with prideful, opinionated boasts about our home turf. This is rather a view often echoed in the tributes paid by those who visit the area. Our work has required that we talk to people from all across this wonderful island upon which we are privileged to live and we are often told of how lucky we are to live in this part of the country. These people reminisce of their time spent in the area and their longing to return. We hear this also from those who visit the area from much more distant shores. All seem to succumb to the magic and charm of this corner of the island that juts defiantly into an often unforgiving North Sea. These occasional contacts often serve as a reminder to us that this is indeed wonderful place to live.
I believe that no matter where you live, familiarity often veils the specialness of the place you call home. This was certainly true of us for a while, but with the exuberance and angst of youth and its rebellious need to explore beyond the perceived restrictions of locality very much a distant memory, and with years of people constantly reminding you of a very obvious truth, there comes a sort of awakening to the beauty of the place and its heritage. From that moment on you are smitten and the love affair begins. Gradually it is allowed to seep into the very substance of your being, you feel part of it, at one with it and, inevitably, very comfortable with the hold it has upon you.
Have we answered the original question? well, probably not. But in the end this does not really matter that much. You see, I think part of the magic of Norfolk is the fact that you can’t quite put a finger on just what it is that attracts. Put it up against lake, valley or mountain and it initially seems tame and unassuming in comparison. It could be that some of the wilder parts of the country while accessible to many, exclude a greater proportion because of their remoteness. Norfolk and East Anglia are renowned for their flatness, although I would contend that we too have parts that are not entirely at or below sea level ! But within these “flatlands” one may still attain to remoteness and a gentler wildness that allows solitude if required, to stay far enough from the maddening crowd if that is the balm your soul needs. Norfolk is like a gentle relaxing massage to your being rather than a full on, bone bending, manipulation.
Could it be the fact that Norfolk still retains more than a little link to past times, a nostalgic timelessness if you like that does not fully bow to the demands of often characterless modernity.
I once worked with a woman who moved to the area from London to seek a slower pace of life. But so use was she to the busyness of the capital, she found the slower pace of living in Norfolk almost unbearable…at first. Once she had adjusted to the different rhythm of the area she fully integrated and became a very active member of village life and admitted that she could never imagine returning to her former hectic existence. It is quite often the case that those who move to the area adapt and very quickly turn native. However, this is not always the case. I once worked with a chap who, likewise, was city born but found the beat of the area far too slow, he returned to his former life but still retained his affection for the area now making it a holiday retreat for himself and his family, soaking up enough of the relaxing atmosphere in a few days to carry him through. His yearly ‘fix’ was clearly enough and why not, a sustained period of gearing down does not suit everyone. But here again we find that Norfolk has enough busy places as well as quiet backwaters to suit most tastes.
Maybe in the end it is not for us as natives to define the draw of the area. We are all part of the ingredients that constitutes its many faceted character. Our familiarity may cloud our judgement a little. Perhaps we should rather, with good grace and not a little humility, leave comment to those who visit the area or to those who choose to make Norfolk there home.
Whilst we could get all mushy and nostalgic about the past we must also remember that the times we look back on with such affection were very much less so for the people living through them. Until very recently the only means for the common man or women of gaining a meagre living was pretty much dictated by what you could grow in the rich earth or plunder from the abundant North Sea. But this bounty was never easily won.
I would argue that the simpler times that we yearn for are not so much based upon the conditions that dictated life then, in comparison we live like royalty today! It has more to do with community and the spirit of belonging. This I believe, more than anything has been sacrificed to the modern machine that greedily demands to be fed more and more, that insists on being heard rather than giving space for a little peace and time to breathe. It requires conformity, sameness and a kind of homogenised blandness. Please the Lord this never happens! For all the benefits of today’s, higher standards of living, health care, food, shelter etc etc., it is essential that we retain that very important element that identifies us dwellers on this little island, our regional characteristics. These should be cherished and respected not disowned, ridiculed nor viewed with embarrassment just because they look back to our ancestors and our heritage. A future without the colour and warmth of tradition would be very much the poorer and austere. Our ability to reflect is a very important part of what makes us human. But I am very optimistic that our traditions will not be eroded over time. Why ? Because although we are pretty apathetic most of the time, it also goes that the British people have never taken kindly to being told what to do, to conform, and they are a force to be reckoned with when roused. And I think our natural tendency to stubbornness and bloodymindedness will not allow for the demise of our culture and traditions. Speaking now for my own Norfolk, nay East Anglian ‘Tribe’, the spirit of rebellion has always played its part, think Boudicca, the revolt of the earls, Roger Bigod, the peasants revolt, Kett’s rebellion, we are a distinctly unruly lot. But it is this argumentative spirit holds the hope of retaining that sacred and essential flavour of the county. “Dew Difrunt” is, after all, the rallying call to the dweller of these parts!
Arguably the jewel in the crown of Norfolk are the Norfolk Broads, I say arguably for I am sure there are some natives who would contest this, what did I say about us being an argumentative lot? ! the fact is that The Broads, Northern and Southern, attract a great many people to the area each year and has recently acquired National Park status. It has undoubtedly got a majestic charm that entices. The Broads offer much to enhancing the appeal of Norfolk and its equally enticing sister county Suffolk. Though mainly in Norfolk the southern Broads follow and slip across the often blurred boundaries that supposedly divide Norfolk and Suffolk. Personally I see very little division and feel very much at home in the equally fascinating beauty of Suffolk as I do in Norfolk. The fact that we were born near to these borderlands may explain this but I have always seen these counties as mutually enhancing. The character of the people who live the area commonly known as East Anglia are not vastly different and anyway could not, and should, not be defined by a government imposed line on a map. These are lines of convenience not culture. Whilst there are slight regional variations in the dialect spoken across the area these are unlikely to be picked up by those visiting.
The Norfolk dialect though not as common as it once was, due to the modern influences of language invading us through our tv’s, computers etc., is still alive. The aim of this web site “Broad Norfolk” is to keep it alive. In a way we may be able to turn the tables and export the richness and beauty of this wonderful area further afield. Occasional we may slip across the border into Suffolk for further inspiration for there is much to be had there which is common to both counties. We believe wholeheartedly that this is a labour of love and we hope that this will come through to both those who live within this wonderful county and to those outside it who are very welcome to share it with us. To our fellow natives we ask your forbearance on anything that may appear contrary to your experience of the area. These are personal observations and reflections after all. So, all that is left now is to offer a warm welcome to native and ‘furriner’ aloik,
Moind how yew go tergether