What’s next for Fakenham?

Having bought the railway track bed and the two bridges at Pudding Norton, Fakenham, we have begun to plan for restoration of the bridges and for the involvement of the local community.

The condition of the bridges has already been assessed by Bob Wright, a railway civil engineer of great experience, to whom we owe a lot. This has shown that they are in a surprisingly good state after many years of disuse. Nevertheless, they need restoration work to prevent deterioration and to keep them sound for the time when the railway can be rebuilt.

Bridge 1715 carrying the GER line to Dereham over the former M&GN line to Sheringham

Although it is clearly marked as private property, the trackbed as far as the river bridge is walked extensively by local people, who greatly enjoy the wonderful view of the Wensum Valley from our high embankment. We are happy for this to continue until the route is required for the railway but it must be under “permissive path” status, which will prevent the establishment of a full public right of way and ensure that railway use will not be impeded. In fact, there is adequate width to allow both railway and a footpath, should that be necessary in the future.

Bridge 1714, the Three Brick Arches carrying the line to Dereham over the River Wensum

Registering a permissive path is, therefore, important as is attention to public safety. We have already tried a number of times to get guidance from the authorities on the process involved in establishing a permissive path without much result. There appear to be some policy changes planned. We shall stay with it.
Otherwise, we are now concentrating on two strategies:

First, we are forging partnerships with groups in the local community. We are working with Fakenham Academy towards the provision of teaching material about the history and the future of the railway, together with a possible short training course for teachers about the railway and its place in the community. We think it no bad thing that young people should be made aware of the railway, its past and its potential. They are of a generation that has grown up without a local railway. We need to help them to understand what a rail service to Fakenham could do for the community, the economy and the environment.

View from Bridge 1714 over the River Wensum

We also have a partnership with Fakenham Area Conservation Team, which is to help control vegetation along the track bed on a voluntary basis. We are very grateful for this highly practical assistance.

The more that local people understand the importance of the work that we are doing and the more they become involved, the better the long-term prospects for a strongly supported project to bring the railway back to Fakenham.

In that connection, quotations have been obtained for the creation of interpretation boards to be placed on the site illustrating the history of the railway and the Wensum Valley environment and explaining our plans to acquire more trackbed and, in partnership with the Mid Norfolk Railway, return a public transport rail service to Fakenham.


Bridge 1715 under construction in the 19th Century

Second, we have to consider the work necessary on the bridges, both to arrest deterioration and to improve safety provisions. The bridges are not going to fall to pieces but it will be a very good thing if we can deal with such things as ingress of water, vegetation establishing itself where it should not be, loose masonry and lack of protective paintwork.

Bob Wright has advised on the work that needs to be done and quotations have been obtained from specialist contractors.

Both of these strategies require money. £3,800 has been raised in grants initially. This is made up of £300 from Fakenham Town Council, which is strongly in support of our efforts as a matter of policy, £2,500 from the Ernest Cook Trust and £1,000 from the Veronica Awdry Charitable Trust. We are now seeking to build on this support with further grant applications for substantial funding sufficient to allow us to fulfil both strategies: community partnerships and bridge restoration. There is a lot of competition for funding but, for the first time, we have a project at Fakenham of the right kind to attract grant support.

Whilst this goes on, we have also been looking at the potential acquisition of another section of trackbed. Such negotiations, however, do have to be approached with sensitivity and care. Inevitably there are many pitfalls and they take time.

Audio: Hunslet 3193

There are some interesting projects taking place along the Orbital route.  One excellent example is the Hunslet 3193,  a steam locomotive undergoing restoration in the goods yard at Yaxham railway station by members of the Norfolk Heritage Steam Railway Ltd.

One of our website editors, Paul Young, met up recently with two members of the Norfolk Heritage Steam Railway Ltd.  Chairman Charlie Cooley and Secretary/Treasurer David Bramhall.

Listen to their conversation here:

For more information, please click on the weblinks below:

Norfolk Heritage Steam Railway Ltd.

Hunslet 3193 photographs

There is also a Facebook page: Hunslet 3193


Land purchase at High Kelling

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters we recently met the challenge of having to pay the next installment towards the purchase of the land at High Kelling.

The land we have purchased is contained within the belt and we are now looking at Pt1300 which leads up to the Holt Bypass.

Together with the initial stretch of land we purchased from the County Council some time ago this means that we have reached the halfway mark towards purchasing this first part of the railway route and the prospect of getting into Holt.  We face many challenges ahead and we will keep everyone informed but this is good news which we wanted to share with you now.


The plan for bringing the railway back into Holt

From an end-on junction with the NNR’s tracks at their present terminus in High Kelling, the line will skirt the NNR’s planned Victorian school-room, then cross the Cromer Road by bridge or level crossing. It will then follow the old trackbed across the land we have just purchased and on towards the A148. It will follow the route of this road, running along the wide verge that was left when the road was built.

The housing development planned for the south of the bypass has had its roundabout junction with the bypass designed so as to not impede the rail line.

At Station Road there will be an interim terminus provided, which will be used until the line can be extended further west tunneling under Norwich Road to a permanent station near Valley Lane. From there the railway can eventually continue towards Melton Constable, the first part of the route here combining a footpath with the railway line.

Verge Diagram