Back to Norfolk

Gressinghall

In years to come I’d like to look back at this blog and remember the times in my life which have been inspiring, emotional or significant.

Coming back to Norfolk is one of those significant moments.  In 1988 when I was 21 years old I left Norfolk and my hometown of King’s Lynn to work in Reading, Berkshire.  I remember clearly how difficult this was and how homesick I was early on.  Since then I have worked all over the country and lived in some beautiful places.

Over all that time, I came to appreciate what a special place Norfolk really was.  I kept thinking that if I’d never left, then I would have taken it for granted and probably would never really have appreciated it.

Twenty six years on and my life changed forever with the death of my father. With an uncertain future through self-employment, and a stream of trips from the Midlands to Norfolk sorting out my dad’s affairs, I started to feel that maybe the time had come to move back to be closer to my family.

I began applying for Jobs in Norfolk, and in July 2014 I was offered a Job at a charity in Norwich.  Finally I had the opportunity to move back to Norfolk, but this meant leaving behind my life in Loughborough and my girlfriend of five years, a heart breaking decision.

Mum helped me to find a cottage near Norwich, and when the time to move came, my brother came with a van to help me.  He later told me that as we passed through Clenchwarton where our dad had lived on our way to my new house, that he talked to dad and told him that he was bringing me home, needless to say this brought a lump to my throat.  My journey was equally emotional remembering all that I had left behind and thinking about the new life I had in front of me.

Bintry Mill, Bintree, Norfolk

Pictured: Bintry Mill, Norfolk where three generations of Wakefield’s lived, going back to the 1880’s.

Slowly I settled in to my house, work and routine.  I began to explore, and started with some of the places and people on my family tree.  I was now living two miles from where my grandfather was born, Swanton Morley.  For over twenty years I had pored over maps of the places my ancestors had lived trying to get a picture in my head of what it was like.  Now I lived there, and each cycle ride took me through the villages and past the houses where my ancestors had lived, loved and died, I felt at home.

Although I was enjoying making lots of new discoveries on my family tree, I really missed not being able to share them with my dad, who would have been interested I’m sure.

One of my favourite things to do in Norfolk, has been to ride for hours down tiny country lanes, ending with visits to friends and family.  The beautiful wildlife, endless beaches, big skies, picturesque villages and friendly locals always make for a memorable ride.

Pictured: Kessingland Beach, Suffolk, where my G G Grandfather Charles Bonney-Georges headless body was washed up in 1901.

Pictured: Kessingland Beach, Suffolk, where my G G Grandfather Charles Bonney-George’s headless body was washed up in 1901.

Many of my ancestors never left Norfolk, I’m starting to understand why …….

NB Featured picture is of the Gressenhall Workhouse gates, where another G G Grandfather Matthew Bowes lived and died.

 

 

Cycling Peddars Way – Norfolk


I recently cycled Peddars Way in Norfolk with my brother and have decided to document my ride both for my own records and for the information of others:

Always looking for a new challenge and living away from my home county of Norfolk,  I thought riding Peddars Way  would be an ideal opportunity to have a great day of riding whilst seeing some great sights and visiting my family.  I began by convincing my brother what a great idea it would be, and although he was reticent at first because of the distance (58 miles), we agreed that we would take it easy, stop as often as we needed and I would lead as much as possible so he could draft me.  As it turns out none of this was necessary (read on).

We decided to do the ride on Saturday the 28th July, which frustratingly turned out to be the same day as the Olympic men’s road race, where Mark Cavendish was expected to win Gold.  So much for forward planning 😦

Finding the start

It wasn’t long before the day had arrived and we set off armed with maps, fuel, and enthusiasm.  Our agreed starting point was a place called Knettishall Heath near Diss in Norfolk.  For anyone wishing to follow in our Tyre marks, park or get dropped off at the Knettishall Heath Country Park car park. Then turn south out of the car park (away from your destination), turn right as you exit the car park, ride for about 800 m until you come to a small car park on your left.  Then on the opposite side of the road about 50 m further on is where the trail starts.  58 miles North ish takes you to Hunstanton on the Norfolk Coast.

They’re off

The first 10 miles of the ride are probably the fastest as they are through wooded  singletracks.  As we followed the trail we kept coming across a group of MTX riders who were also riding down to the coast (Although this is not permitted for MTX!).  Being an eternal optimist I said to my  brother, “I think we can beat these down to the coast !” as I knew they would have to keep stopping, and would probably have to take the long way round at some points.

My brother (Jeremy) wasn’t impressed with my ‘haring off’ after the bikes and sensibly stuck to a comfortable pace (wish I had done the same!).

My brother (Jens)

Jeremy a keen cyclist who enjoys XC but is more comfortable on his road bike, was I think it was fair to say a little apprehensive about riding 58 miles XC with me.  Training for at most an hour at a time,  I think he was worried what 6 hrs in the saddle would do to him.

He needn’t have worried as after 40 miles I was starting to flag and Jeremy was taking the lead and riding like a man possessed.

I told him he reminded me of Jens Voigt one of my favorite riders, who like him was a big powerful rider, who rode massive gears. Somehow it made me feel better to compare him to a rider such as Jens, as I was having trouble keeping up with him.

Halfway

We stopped in Castle Acre for lunch which was about half way and an ideal place, full of quaint little bric-a-brac shops, tea rooms and pubs.

Castle Acre Church

The section between 20 miles and 40 miles were the most difficult,  riding through at times long grass, then sand, then long grass again, and over an undulating profile.

This sort of terrain was gradually sapping my strength and despite having ridden 100 miles the weekend before in under 5 1/2 hrs I was running out of steam and Jeremy gradually left me behind. Although he always waited at crossing and route points for me to catch up.

Over 40 years we’d built up  healthy sibling rivalry and during my ‘suffer time’ I was trying hard to justify how it was, that my brother who doesn’t ride competitively (as I do) and who only trains for an hour at a time was dropping me like a hot potato?  I was after-all riding quite well I thought.

My only conclusion was that he really was a natural bike rider, with great natural power from years of playing  badminton, and that he really hadn’t tested himself before like he was on our ride, it was I thought a confidence thing for him, as he obviously had the ability to ride hard for at least 40 miles XC.  What else could I come up with?  All my training would be wasted…

Jens Voigt having a well earned rest

For those wondering, the 58 miles including a 45 min stop half way and another 15 min stop further on took us about 6 hrs, and we averaged about 12 mph.  Less ambitious cyclists should not be deterred, the ride really is a ‘must do’ and at a slower pace would have been much more enjoyable. The whole of Peddars Way is ride-able despite maps indicating to the contrary, and the terrain varies from wooded fire trails, to grassy climbs and quiet country roads. It’s so easy to follow as it’s almost dead straight.

I can see the sea!!

The first time you see the sea, coming out of Ringstead, there is a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment having left all those strength sapping miles behind you.

On our journey which was on a beautiful summers day we passed no more than 10 people.  Remarkably the trail passes through very few villages, maybe two or three, so take the opportunity to stop when you can, as if you wait for the next opportunity it may be 20 miles coming, and yes for anyone wondering we didn’t beat the guys on MTX bikes, although my legs felt like they’d tried pretty hard.

Thanks to my brother for making me want to be a better bike rider!!

Download a GPX file of Peddars Way

Download a TCX file of Peddars Way (Works with some Garmins)

Download a Map of Peddars Way

Download an Aerial Photo Map of Peddars Way

Mypastforme – a shrinking world!


Ever heard the phrase ‘Six degrees of separation’?  It’s intended meaning is that every person in the world is potentially 6 steps or people away from an introduction to everyone else on earth.

Well where did this theory come from? It is thought to have come originally from a Hungarian author called Frigyes Karinthy.  In 1929 he published a series of short articles including a piece called ‘Chains’ and although fictional he hypothesised that because of increased, wealth, ability to travel, social mobility and better communication that the world was shrinking and as a result he wrote that any two characters in his story could be connected through no more than five acquaintances only one of whom was known personally.

This was nearly 100 years ago now, and in my opinion despite the world’s population more than trebling from approx 2 billion in 1929 to over 7 billion in 2012  ‘Six degrees of separation’ is even more likely to be true today.  Why is this?  It’s obvious isn’t it? – the Internet!

With social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin this is a real possibility,  to demonstrate this I’ve recently connected with a 9 th cousin on Facebook,  I’ve been Tweeted by Olympic Gold Medallists and introduced friends to Premiership Football Managers through Linkedin.  Prior to the internet surely these type of interactions would have been at the most extremely unlikely for an ordinary person like me.

However the bit that really interests me is how the internet has opened up the possibilities for us to trace our ancestors, our roots. Since developing a personal interest in Genealogy some years ago, I’ve made a series of seemingly random discoveries about how I’m connected to people and places.  I have noticed that the harder I look the more connections I seem to find.

As a result a handful of my friends are now also in my family tree as are 2 ex girlfriends and my current girlfriend is also my 11th cousin. No jokes about in breds from Norfolk please.

So with sites like Ancestry.com and Genes Reunited, as long as you have the time and the patience it’s relatively easy to trace your tree and shrink your world, but this can be time consuming and frustrating.

In January 2012 I created a website called http://www.mypastforme.com to help people trace their ancestors.  If you don’t have the time, patience or knowledge but would really like to have a permanent record of your Family Tree, for future generations or even an elderly mother or father then please check the website.

www.mypastforme.com 

Feature picture is the Earl Family from the North End area of King’s Lynn, included in the picture is my G Grandfather William Jacob Earl and his Father William Whitehead Earl.  The Northenders as they were known was a poor, hardworking and proud community located in the dock area of the port town of King’s Lynn.

Charlie Wakefield Wins Ryston Race !


Two weeks ago I was torn between doing the Cannock MTB race or a Duathlon in Thetford Forest, but in the end I decided to go and see my nephews Charlie (9) and Harry (6) do their last race of the season at their local club.  It was Mothers Day too so another good reason!

Neither Charlie or Harry knew that I was coming to watch them, so when I stood on the start line and bellowed their names, they looked round with a slightly embarrassed grin that their ‘Mad’ uncle Ian had come to watch. Which made me smile too.

I ran off down to the first corner to cheer them on, where my brother (their father) had already positioned himself strategically at the bottom of a big hill.

Their Mum was at the top of the hill ready to give encouragement too!  Not that we Wakefields are competitive at all!!

Bang ! the starters gun goes off and a sea of children come sprinting towards us, and believe me for under 9’s they are sprinting! 2:48 mins for 800 m is sub 6 minute miles, and I remember how painful 6 minute miles were.

Charlie came round the corner in second place and looked comfortable, the boy in front had beaten him before but not in the current season.  Not far behind was little Harry in about 5 th  place (12 secs faster than Charlie at the same age), a real talent for future years.

The next time I saw them, Charlie was coming into the finishing straight and had a clear lead.   I was so proud  and shouted to him to try for the course record (He’d only missed it by 3 secs in the last race).  He ran strongly and finished a comfortable winner, but I couldn’t help wonder if he’s got the record?

Not far behind him (about 30 secs) came little brother Harry, whose style is currently a mixture between stumbling and running which does make me smile but probably it’s probably because he’s going so fast. A great result for both boys.

I was pleased to find that Charlie had gained the Club Record for the run at 2:48 mins 2 secs quicker than the previous record which had stood for over 10 years.  He was only 1 sec outside the all comers record of 2:47 mins.  Now he is at the end of his age group so no more chances for the record, guess he will have to leave it for little brother Harry.

Can’t help thinking how well they’re doing and how I never won a race in my life but am still trying at 44!  Will they still be going at my age? Or will they have given up and discovered drugs, rock n roll and fast cars? Who knows but I hope they have the habit of exercise for life.

Later whilst at the prize giving I met two people who had and did inspire me, the first was a 75-year-old lady called Mary Holmes who was still competing at Cross Country, and looked very sprightly too, I wished her well and hoped I would be still going at 75.

The second was an athlete who will forever have his name etched into my memory. In my teenage years whilst competing for various clubs, one boy called Darren Mead from Thetford   had dominated all the local races.  He had gone on to represent Great Britain at the World Junior Cross Country Championships in Switzerland (1986) and gained a No 1 ranking for 10 miles for U 17’s (1987).   I had often wondered what had become of this talented boy?  Well here he was at the prize giving with his son, who had obviously inherited some of his talent.  My sister-in-law introduced me and we reminisced about how long ago it was we used to compete, and although he said he was still fit he appeared not to have competed for some time, hope maybe we’ll see him run again next year.

Well done to my Sister in Law Caroline Wakefield who was second Senior Lady in the series and Charlie Wakefield who won the Under 9’s series, not forgetting little Charlie who will surely win many events in years to come, and even if he doesn’t his ‘Mad’ uncle Ian will be proud as long as he does his best.

Whilst there I thought it would be great to have a go in the mens race, and was pleased with my 29 mins over 6.5 km considering the lack of running I do these days.

Video of Charlie and Harry 2 years ago in the same race!

Update – on 26 March 2012 Charlie became County Champion for under 9’s at the County Showground!

Charlie_leading_ryston_2

Winning the U15 Ryston Grand Prix aged 12 on 11th October 2015