Festival Of Nature

Conservationists, art historians, poets, herbalists, artists and biologists will be joining forces to celebrate the natural world in a festival.

The 2014 Festival of Nature: Water/Land will be held between Monday February 24-Saturday March 1 at the Auden Theatre in Holt. It has been organised by Gresham’s School.
Highlights will include the festival lecture, to be given by author Mark Cocker, and a week-long exhibition by landscape poet Harriet Tarlo and artist Judith Tucker.
The event is being held after the successful Festival of Nature Writing in 2011.

Expert Andy Mackay will be giving a talk entitled Picturing Nature: Great works of landscape art from the Renaissance to the present day on Tuesday February 25 between 6.30-7.30pm. Tickets cost £5. David North, head of people and wildlife at Norfolk Wildlife Trust will be talking about the landscape and wildlife around Cley Marshes on Tuesday February 25 between 8-9pm. Tickets cost £5.

Other events include a writing workshop on Saturday March 1 at 2pm. Tickets cost £25.
A ticket for the whole festival costs £25. Call the box office on 01263 713444 for more information.

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Maintaining Railway Heritage

Maintaining the heritage of north Norfolk’s railway has been highlighted by campaigners behind an ambitious project to bring trains back into Holt town centre.

Enthusiasts spearheading the Norfolk Orbital Railway plan have spoken about their desire to protect the line’s history, amid suggestions hoped-for commuter trains could detract from the heritage service run by the North Norfolk Railway (NNR).

The orbital project is being led by the Melton Constable Trust, which hopes to extend the track into the heart of Holt, bringing regular services from Cromer, and eventually continue it into the rest of the county.

Services would be linked by track owned by the NNR, which runs vintage locos from Sheringham to Holt and has stressed it does not want to compromise its timetable.

But David Bill, trustee of the constable trust, said he wants the two to complement each other.
“What matters is the ability to take people from A to B, and personally I’m not too worried about what those trains look like,” he said.
“The diesel rail cars which are presently used on the NNR are identical to the diesel rail cars that ran into Holt all those years ago.”

Mr Bill has long-established links to the line and said protecting its history was of personal importance to him.
He added: “To me the heritage of the railway is as important as anything else and nobody feels more strongly about the heritage than I do.”

The orbital scheme has taken another step forward with the purchase of a further 50 yards of former track bed, and Mr Bill said the trust was now concentrating on buying more land.

Colin Borg, NNR marketing director, said the Poppy Line was “broadly supportive” of the orbital scheme and would love to see trains steaming back into Holt.

“We’ve talked about maybe running an (orbital) train early in the morning through to the new station and return in the evening, but the board are absolutely determined that steam heritage services will be the primary service from Sheringham to Holt.”

For details about how you can support the orbital scheme visit www.norfolk-orbital-railway.co.uk

(via North Norfolk News)

For more information about the NNR visit www.nnrailway.co.uk

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A Magical Story To Tell

The Cremation Illusion. Stretching a Lady. The Girl Without a Middle. Maskelyne’s Spirit Cabinet. The Wrist Chopper. The Vanishing Handkerchief Gun. These are just a handful of the astonishing exhibits at Norfolk’s most magical attraction, Davenport’s Magic Kingdom.

Next to the skeleton remains of industrial units past, it’s an incongruous yet strangely fitting venue for a magical kingdom where curiosities and enchantment lie in wait for those that pass through the doors.

Davenport’s Magic Kingdom opened in North Walsham last summer and houses a fraction of the famous Davenport family’s collection of vintage magic ephemera in a 15,000sq ft warehouse, plus an interactive exhibition – From Witches to Wonder – which takes visitors on a journey through the history of British magic, a theatre where magic shows take place daily, a shop filled with wonder and a café for hungry magic fans.

The £1 million venture at the site of the former Crane Fruehauf trailer factory site has been funded by a £700,000 investment from the Davenport family, a £100,000 grant from the Rural Development Programme for England and a £200,000 commercial loan. And it is, quite literally, magic.

Inside, the walls are filled with the most fantastical exhibits: the unicorn and lion from the Exhibition of Great Britain in 1951, back drops used by magicians through the last century hang from the ceiling, giant moth wings that were part of an act, hundreds of vintage posters, stage sets, Punch and Judy boxes, the famous prop used to saw winsome ladies in half, ventriloquists’ dummies, a headless lady, a plant with teeth, Houdini’s water torture cell… it’s an Aladdin’s Cave for those that love magic.

There’s even a faithful recreation of the London magic shop run by the Davenport family in the first half of the 1900s with original stock and signs, sleight-of-hand magicians in the shop, a resident witch and a concert piano which will, in the near future, magically play itself.

Unsurprisingly, magician Roy Davenport is delighted with the new attraction and the chance for his family to share their incredible collection, thought to be one of the most impressive in the world.

“My great-grandfather Lewis lived in east London – his own father had died when he was eight and as the eldest boy he was expected to start work as soon as he could. It was a hand-to-mouth existence and the family had to keep moving because they couldn’t afford to pay rent,” said Roy.

“He became an apprentice cooper, making barrels, but found he had a talent for juggling and used to go round pubs in London to earn a few farthings extra. A magician came to stay with the family as a lodger and showed Lewis how to do a few tricks so he could include magic with the juggling.

“Lewis started to play at a few clubs and theatres, working his way up to the music halls meaning he could give up the day job to concentrate on magic. He started selling tricks by mail order and by 1908 he opened his first magic shop, writing all the trick instructions by hand and making the tricks himself.”

Roy’s great-grandfather acquired a printing press in order to produce magic catalogues and his son followed him into the business while he made a name for himself on the magic circuit, playing at some the biggest venues in Britain and Europe.

While in Germany, Lewis made contacts with factories, arranging to sell their magic tricks from his shop in central London. By 1929, the poor boy who had to keep moving to avoid the rent collector had bought himself a 16-bedroom mansion in Kent, followed ten years later by the Rolls Royce that is today on show at Davenport’s Magic Kingdom.

Next to take the reins was George “Gilly” Davenport who took over the magic shop’s management and continued to add to Lewis’s collection of props and ephemera, acquiring a host of exclusive performing rights from famous magicians including all the illusions and effects debuted at the famous Maskelyne’s magic theatre, St George’s Hall, where Lewis had performed more than 3,000 times.

Lewis died in 1961, his son died the year after and the business was left to his daughter Betty Davenport who had started working in the shop in 1948 at the age of 14.

“I remember Lewis well and I’ve always been brought up in the business so it’s second nature to me,” said Betty, Roy’s mother.

“When I was younger I used to do little shows but my father died quite young when I was in my 20s and so I took over the shop so my magic became demonstrating tricks to customers while trying to look after my children at the same time!

(Roy added: “When my brother and I came along, Mum used to push us up to the shop in our pram. We were fascinated by magic – our playtimes were spent crawling around the back of the shop and finding new tricks. When I asked her how to do a trick, she was normally busy with a customer so I had to work them out myself. It’s the best way to learn magic!”)

“To have our collection on show is a dream come true. The only other collection that I think comes close to what we have is the one owned by David Copperfield and that’s on a private Caribbean island and you need to have an invitation to see it!”

Betty’s husband, Fergus Roy, forged his own career but was lured into the magical world in 1979, creating a television show called Illusions for Thames Television in the 1980s, working with Betty at the Davenport’s shop and writing four volumes about the family’s history.

“It was an emotional moment when we walked through the doors here for the first time,” he said.

“We have waited for this for so long that it was like a dream come true. We hope that in time we can show even more of our collection and that we can bring more magic to people – we have a whole warehouse of amazing artefacts that we’d love to have out on show.”

Roy’s brother Bill now runs the family’s magic shop at Charing Cross, in the heart of London’s West End, while Roy performs regularly in addition to running the North Walsham attraction. Three Davenport grandchildren are already showing magical signs of following in the family footsteps.

With a host of awards to his name – including prizes from the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the World Magic Championships – Roy may have been destined to join his family’s magic circle, but at one point he flirted with the idea of becoming an engineer.

“I’d always done tricks and I was at a magic convention once and a famous American magician said to me that I’d be mad not to pursue magic. He actually said I was an idiot and should wake up!” he laughed.

After three years at drama school, Roy became a full-time magician. His love for Norfolk was born when he starred in a Cromer Pier show – living in a remote part of the county was, he realised, the perfect counterfoil to a life spent on the road, performing in front of thousands of people.

He, his wife and children now live in a small hamlet in north Norfolk and love the seclusion.


But the magic of the family’s latest venture has captured Roy’s heart and his enthusiasm is infectious.

“I want people to step into an entirely new world of wonder, to be amazed and to go home wondering just how the magic they’ve seen is done. Magic has been my family’s life for four generations and we have always wanted to share it with people,” he said.

Davenport’s Magic Kingdom is at Cromer Road, North Walsham, 01692 405254, www.davenportsmagickingdom.co.uk.


The venue is hosting a fundraising event for the EDP’s Norfolk and Lowestoft Flood Appeal on February 8 at 7.30pm (bar opens at 6.30pm). Tickets cost £10 and there will be a host of acts including magicians, singers, jugglers and comedians.

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 01692 405254.

(via North Norfolk News)

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Bid to re-water dry section of North Walsham and Dilham Canal

They have sent a plan to the Environment Agency for re-watering a section of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal above Bacton Wood lock, which is itself above Bacton Wood Mill.

If the re-watering was permitted, supporters – including the North Walsham and Dilham Canal Trust and East Anglian Waterways Association (EAWA) – say it would provide benefits to farmers and wildlife, together with residents and visitors who could use it for leisure and pleasure.

But opponents believe dredging and clearance work already carried out on the canal have destroyed habitats and damaged wildlife.

The nine-mile canalisation of the River Ant, from Antingham to just above Wayford Bridge, at Smallburgh, was opened in 1826. The final wherry sailed it in 1934 and it fell into neglect.

Bacton Wood lock, one of six on the canal, has been virtually rebuilt by Laurie Ashton, whose Old Canal Company owns the waterway between Ebridge Mill lock and Swafield Bridge.

Mr Ashton hopes to restore Bacton Wood Mill to working order and re-establish the waterway as a sailing canal used by wherries.

But he lost an appeal last year against an Environment Agency “stop notice” banning him from further work on the canal between Ebridge Mill and Bacton Wood Mill.

David Revill, spokesman for the EAWA, said the canal was dry above Bacton Wood lock to the far side of Royston Bridge.

He claimed clearance work by EAWA volunteer work parties since 1998 had halted the destruction by nature of locks and other man-made structures on the canal.

Removing vegetation had also allowed water to run freely again in previously-choked sections, attracting more wildlife.

At the canal trust’s recent annual meeting members had heard that goldfinches, wagtails, reed warblers, swallows, marsh harriers, kingfishers, a marsh harrier, otter, water voles, water snails and dragonflies now visited, or lived in, the Ebridge section.

And at the trust’s Ebridge Mill lock island open day in the summer, nearly 200 extra people had signed an existing petition supporting work on the canal.

“Our first aim had been to alleviate flooding in North Walsham and its environs, which had become quite a big concern, and we have achieved that,” said Mr Revill.

They had also given wildlife a big boost and opened up walkways which were well used by the public.

“I’m pleased with the way things are going but I’m not pleased with the Environment Agency stop order,” Mr Revill added.

An agency spokesman said: “We appreciate that there is support for the aim of re-establishing navigation on the canal but there is also opposition.

“Over the last few months we have met with several interested parties to try to find a way forward that meets the needs of everyone in the community as well as the needs of the environment.”

(via EDP24)

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New hope for North Walsham museum site

Discussions are under way on the feasibility of renting and converting the floor above the Chubby Panda chinese restaurant, on Market Street.

The historic north Norfolk market town has been searching for a suitable museum venue for some 40 years, without success.

But those involved in the current talks have stressed that investigations are at an early stage, with many hurdles to overcome.

Auctioneer Nigel Horner Glister, who has owned the building for the past 25-30 years, said the oak-panelled room measured 47ft by 28ft and included a stage.

It had once been used for social gatherings by Co-operative staff and had also been a venue for wedding parties, wakes and other events. In more recent years it was used for Horners’ auctions which have since moved to Acle.

Discussions involve Mr Horner Glister and representatives from North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), the Griffon Area Partnership, North Walsham Historical Society, North Walsham Archive Group, and the North Walsham Information Office.

Griffon spokesman Rebecca Matthews said there had always been artefacts in North Walsham for a museum, but nowhere to display them. She added: “This opportunity is quite exciting but we need to make sure it would be sustainable. We need to know that there would be funding, and enough people willing to run it.”

Once more information was available, a public meeting could be called to gauge local support.

Mike Ling, chairman of the archive group and a collector of local memorabilia, said he had about 60 small items which could be displayed, including examples of North Walsham crested china and pieces from his grandfather’s pharmacy business in the town.

Christine Turner, chairman of the historical society, said they would be happy to hear from people with items to donate to a future museum.

They could be catalogued and stored in a small room next to the district council building, on New Street.

(via North Norfolk News)

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