The Melton Constable Trust has received £20,000 National Lottery support to help address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on heritage.

The Melton Constable Trust that manages the Norfolk Orbital Railway project, has received £20, 000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to maintain and promote their heritage railway land at Fakenham and Holt.  This is intended to be used in due course  for the re-building of the railway.  In the meantime, the sites and their history are already benefiting the public.  The permissive footpath at Fakenham along the railway trackbed is a popular walk and this funding will enable the Melton Constable Trust to maintain this along with managing security and safety so that members of the public can continue to enjoy this area for the benefit of their health and well being.  At Holt the Melton Constable Trust have plans to develop and expand their site for the benefit of visitors and the local community.  Social media will be used to promote the Melton Constable Trusts activities and events whilst at the same time volunteer staff will be trained in how to use this platform to share information and interact with other organisations.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown began the Melton Constable Trust has been limited in its activities due to travel restrictions however as lockdown eased and shielding was paused volunteers have been able to meet and carry out works at both sites.

Paul Young the Project officer for the Norfolk Orbital Railway project at the Melton Constable Trust said: “Thanks to the National Lottery and its players we can now move forward and make terrific progress in building on what we have worked so hard for and to safeguard the heritage aspect of the railway for future generations whilst at the same time providing activities for people to enjoy. We’re so grateful that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting us at this crucial time – it’s a lifeline to us and others who are passionate about sustaining heritage for the benefit of all.”

To enable The Melton Constable Trust to manage the Norfolk Orbital Railway project, the money received from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, will help develop a comprehensive fundraising management plan and launch a volunteer recruitment programme aimed at driving the project forward and future proofing the Melton Constable Trust.

The funding, made possible by National Lottery players, was awarded through The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund. £50million was made available to provide emergency funding for those most in need across the heritage sector.

The UK-wide fund aimed to address both immediate emergency actions and help organisations to start thinking about recovery.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, supporting economic regeneration and benefiting our personal wellbeing. All of these things are going to be even more important as we emerge from this current crisis. 

“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we are pleased to be able to lend our support to organisations such as the Melton Constable Trust during this uncertain time.”

Like the Melton Constable Trust, other charities and organisations across the UK that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus outbreak are being given access to a comprehensive package of support of up to £600 million of repurposed money from The National Lottery. This money is supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and span the arts, community, charity, heritage, education, environment and sports sectors.

Thanks to National Lottery players, £30 million is raised every week for good causes, including heritage of local and national importance. By playing The National Lottery, people up and down the country are making an amazing contribution to the nationwide-response to combatting the impact of COVID-19 on local communities across the UK.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund is now closed for applications. To find out more about how The National Heritage Emergency Fund is supporting the sector at this time please visit: https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/responding-coronavirus-covid-19 

To find out more about the National Lottery Good Causes , visit: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/coronavirus-pandemic-response 

For further information about the Norfolk Orbital Railway project, please contact:

David Bill – d.bill@ntlworld.com

Paul Young – projectofficernor@yahoo.co.uk

Update – July 2020

Dear All

We very much hope that you are keeping safe and well in these difficult times. It was our intention to contact all our supporters last year but difficulties intervened including a number of family bereavements.

Our aims and ambitions for the Orbital project remain the same as ever and we hope that you will find the attached leaflet of interest. Our immediate challenge is to pay off the outstanding debt on the second section of route we are buying at Holt although of course ultimate success will rely not only on securing the land but also obtaining the necessary approvals from the County Council and the ORR. We have, of course, already bought the first section of track bed opposite the North Norfolk Railway station at High Kelling and have paid about half of the purchase price of the second section. £50,000 is outstanding. We have £25,000 towards this and, therefore, need to raise another £33,000 taking into account interest and legal costs.

The leaflet below gives details of how you can donate, either by a one off donation or by taking out a standing order. The standing order allows you to spread your donation over a period. (Please go to our support page for more details)

This letter is, therefore, an appeal for your support in raising the last funds necessary to secure this further vital section of track bed. We shall be very grateful for any help you can give.

The lockdown has served to emphasize the need for people to help with all the challenges which lie ahead so please let us know if you are able to assist in any way. We particularly need help with the fundamental issue of proving that the railway and a central Holt station can be built on the land alongside the by-pass to the satisfaction of the County Council. Relevant surveying, planning and engineering skills will be of great value. This work is essential if we are to confirm that we will definitely be permitted to build the railway into Holt.

It might be worthwhile reminding ourselves what we have achieved to date:

  •   Successful professional feasibility studies for the whole route from Holt to Dereham
  •   Successful professional traffic forecast study for the whole orbital route.
  •   Purchase of track bed and associated land at Holt and at Fakenham
  •   Agreement to purchase a second section of track bed at Holt over a period, with a large part of the purchase price paid.
  •   Restoration of the two bridges at Fakenham
  •   Interpretation panels on the Fakenham track bed providing public informationabout the railway and our plans
  •   Substantial work with Fakenham Academy to provide teaching material about the railway and to engage younger people with our project
  •   Collaboration with Fakenham Area Conservation Team who are undertaking maintenance on the Fakenham land.
  •   A tour of interested parties from local authorities and other groups to view progress at Fakenham, in collaboration with the Mid Norfolk Railway
  •   Protection of the route through Holt
  •   Planning consent to lay demonstration track at Holt
  •   4,570 Followers on the Facebook page

As many of you will know, the M&GN Institute at Melton Constable is one of the last remaining buildings of its kind in the country. We have always been grateful to the Institute for allowing us to house our HQ there. In these challenging times it is more important than ever that those of us who care about the railways to support the club and come forward with active help. Let us know if you would like more details.

This photograph is the M&GN Bridge 1715 which carried the GER line from Wymondham to Wells-next-the-Sea over the Melton Constable line. The main cover photograph is the Fakenham East Railway Station, both taken in May 1982.
Photographs copyright of Gary Mutten.

Some encouraging news – The County Council’s Norfolk Rail Prospectus makes positive reference to a number of potential re-opening schemes. We were particularly encouraged by a reference to Fakenham which states in connection to the Mid-Norfolk’s Wymondham to Dereham line “In the longer-term there is potential for housing and jobs growth at Dereham. Dereham is the fifth largest settlement in the county and the largest settlement not connected by the national rail network (although, the Mid-Norfolk Railway operates privately and owns the infrastructure from Wymondham to Dereham). The next largest settlement not connected by rail is Fakenham, – Feasibility into opening this link to mainstream passenger services in the longer term could be considered. The County Council is currently considering whether it can carry out work in this with that which it is progressing on Kings Lynn to Hunstanton.”

Further on there is a reference to our scheme in particular and it states that the council will endeavour to provide help where it can.

Orbital rail (Wymondham-Dereham-Fakenham-Holt-Sheringham)

Existing private railways operate at either end of this line to Dereham and Holt).The Holt, Melton Constable & Fakenham Railway Co Ltd is pursuing plans to complete the link. This is seen as an independent initiative – as will any other similar initiatives and as such will need to be pursued by independent groups utilising their own funds, although the county council will endeavour to provide help where it can.

We are also keeping a close eye on proposals to utilise former routes for cycling and walking with various routes under consideration. We have pointed out, of course, that if these routes are to be used for this purpose then provision should also be made for the return to the purpose for which they were built – railways.

The Government says that it intends to promote major infrastructure projects in order to help the economy recover. What this means in reality remains to be seen but we shall of course be watching out for any significant opportunities.

Finally

We have to state that there is no guarantee that any of our efforts will be successful but some of us are old enough to have been in at the start of what became the railway preservation movement in East Anglia. We did not achieve our lofty aim of reversing the closures at the start of the 60’s but once this pandemic is over there will be trains running again over lines which would otherwise have been ripped up long ago. We are still pioneers planning for the day when railways will again be seen as a vital contribution to the local economy and the environment.

Please reply to

David Bill: Trustee – The Melton Constable Trust

email: mailto: d.bill@ntlworld.com

Tel 07779 345437