West Acre Parish Council
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West Acre Parish Council
The Annual General Meeting of the Parish Council took place on Wednesday 10 June 2020.
Due to the government restrictions on meetings of groups other than families, the Meeting was held online via Zoom. Click here to view the Minutes of the Meeting.
The Meeting approved the Annual Internal Audit Report for 2019-20. A copy of the Report can be viewed by clicking on this link.
Below you will find Minutes of Parish Council meetings from the last twelve months, plus other documents which the Council has to publicise to comply with the Transparency Code.
Click on a heading to see the full document.
West Acre Parish Council
Annual Parish Meeting
10 August 2020 at 6.00pm
Please note that the Annual Parish Meeting 2020 will take place in the Marquee tent at the Stag pub and not in the Village Hall.
Please note that the Meeting will follow government guidance on public meetings, including two-metre social distancing rules (numbers will therefore be limited if necessary) and collection of visitors names and contact details.
Masks will be welcome and can be removed when speaking /addressing the meeting.
There will be no tables – in order to reduce the need for cleaning
In addition we would ask that anyone feeling unwell on the day should stay away.
Alec Birkbeck will attend the Meeting to answer questions relating to -
Visitor management issues – including parking and litter
West Acre Estates current development plans in the planning process – Abbey barns (Pickling shed, containers & other ongoing planning issues), Green Hill Road (residential) and
Narford Lane (camping site)
Highways and drainage.
If you would like to put a question to Alec but are unable to attend the Meeting please email your question to the Clerk, Henry Birkbeck at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone intending to attend the meeting is advised to read the Agenda where you will find further information on our coronavirus precautions.
Please click here to view the Agenda.
West Acre Annual Parish Reports for 2018-19
To read a report from one of the following groups working in the village. Please click on the name of the group to see the full report.
West Acre Rewilding Project
The village hall was packed on the 11th December for a presentation by Westacre Estate & Natural England outlining their vision for the rewilding project getting underway within the estate. Alec Birbeck is leading the project, exploring the environmental issues in relation to estate management and seeking out and engaging with a variety of other rewilding projects and experts. John Ebbage of Natural England has been a strong advocate in support, promoting grant aid for such schemes in order to get them off the ground. Fraser Bradbury is leading the implementation of the early work, getting the rewilding process underway for the estate. The following Parish Council notes describe some of the vision as presented during the meeting.
Current open fields looking north from the Nar Valley Way
In years to come the open fields might look more like this
Vision & Need
The meeting started with an invitation to imagine what our local landscapes might have looked like before humans started to clear the land and manage it for farming animals and crops. There have been a number of rewilding project in recent years in the UK and Europe as a response to the catastrophic loss of biodiversity especially since the introduction of pesticides and post-war industrialisation and intensification of farming. Most of these projects reimagine the withdrawal of humans from intensive intervention in landscape management in preference for mimicking the grazing impacts of long lost species such as Auroch & wild Boar. These rewilding projects now talk in terms of recreating the lost “grazing woodlands & savannas” which these animals would have helped create and manage in ancient times.
But of course we do not have Auroch’s or wild boar anymore - we do however have cattle and pigs to take their place as close relatives. We were told that we will begin to notice over the coming years that some fields around the village will be dropping out of agricultural production and left uncultivated to regenerate naturally, gradually developing a character more akin to that which currently exists at west acre common. Once regeneration has reached sufficient “maturity” grazing cattle and pigs can be introduced to the do the rest. As the rewilding project unfolds (over the next 5 to 10 years) we are invited to rejoice in an element of untidiness in the landscape as this will herald a return to the days when our air will again be filled with a soup of insect life as it used to be – a sure sign that we are living in a healthier biodiverse & balanced world.
To have an impact in ecological terms and in order for there to be enough space for cattle and pigs to roam the project will eventually need to have sufficient available space. The plan (opposite) is an approximation of the extent currently envisage by West Acre estate as described at the meeting. Stretching along the river Nar and then northwards towards East Walton, the core of the project will be to the south and west of the Castle Acre, East Walton/Gayton Road. It includes many existing woodland, wetland and common areas along with open agricultural fields. Westacre parish is therefore only a small part of a much larger project which will, if it takes off, have a significant and positive ecological impact within the wider estate stretching to the west of the village.
Click on the map to view a larger version
In the meeting both the estate and Natural England described the ultimate goal of potentially creating a series of connected wild life corridors. For example there is another rewilding project near Heacham (Wild Ken Hill) – could it be that in the future wildlife will be able to move more freely along planned and connected corridors throughout west
We were reminded that we cannot of course return to a completely natural landscape. Since the war fertilizers, pesticides, and intensive cultivation have changed our soils to such an extent that we cannot, in advance, be completely sure as to what nature will to create when left alone. So the project is being monitored from an ecological perspective recording the species which currently exist as a base line to which it is hoped to add a dramatic increase in biodiversity – as the project matures.
Cattle and pig stocking levels will, as we understand, be at relatively low levels in order to avoid any overgrazing but exact numbers will require some experimentation depending on how the new natural landscape develops. Other rewilding projects cull animals as necessary to control populations with the added benefit of being able to sell the resulting highly valued beef and pork
A number of roads crisscross the rewilding area as it is currently defined. The estate along with Natural England indicated that they are currently in early discussions with Norfolk County Council in the hope of eventually being able the remove some of the existing roadside fencing allowing the introduced crazing cattle and pigs to roam relatively freely. Options to control animals without fencing might include the introduction of cattle grids of the sort use in the New Forest or upland areas where herds of sheep and horses are otherwise allowed to roam free. We understand these discussions are at an early stage and the project is likely to get underway in contained “blocks” or “compartments” defined by these existing roads avoiding the need for crossing points, at least in the short term. cont.,
are at an early stage and the project is likely to get underway in contained “blocks” or “compartments” defined by these existing roads avoiding the need for crossing points, at least in the short term.
Of course there will be an impact on local residents and how we use the footpath network. We were reassured that all footpaths will remain open, however , if all proceeds to plan, we may need to get used to occasionally sharing the new landscape with its new managers in the form of semi feral cattle and pigs.
The meeting also discussed the positive and negative impacts of a potential increase in nature loving visitors along with pressures for further farm diversification. Whilst these are not issues around which there is any certainty at this stage the PC is keen to maintain a dialogue with the Estate for the benefit of residents.
A parish council perspective
We are, as you all know, very lucky to live in the valley of the River Nar with its river SSSI, woodlands, wetlands and meadows all relatively secluded from the wider world. But we cannot ignore what’s happening around us in the wider agricultural landscapes and the decline in natural ecosystems. The potential vision therefore of an enhanced larger and wilder core valley corridor connecting into the wider agricultural landscape adding colour, texture, richness and enhanced biodiversity is surely to be warmly welcomed and embraced. Listening to all the news recently with regard to climate change and biodiversity collapse it’s great to think we will be living in a landscape doing its bit to change things for the better. In the spirit of continuing engagement with local residents the meeting concluded with the idea, that a spring walk might be a great next event for residents to join in order to learn more about this exciting initiative.
We look forward to hearing more about that in the coming months and Westacre Parish Council offers the project its full support and wishes Alec, John, Fraser and all others involved well for the hard work ahead.
Chair, West Acre Parish Council
West Acre Priory and the River Nar
Two recent documents may be of interest to anyone curious to know more about the history of the Augustinian priory and how the health of the River Nar is being monitored.
Click here to read the Norfolk Rivers Trust report on the River Nar
Click here to read the Historic England report on the Priory
Stag pub re-opens
Following recent government relaxation of the rules on gathering at pubs and restaurants, the Stag is now open for business.
Please note that visitors should follow current advice on social distancing for their own safety and that of others.
Coronavirus information update
The Parish Council receives regular updated information from the Borough Council on local services.
Click here to download a copy of the Borough Council update
All Saints Church services
Please note that services have resumed at All Saints, West Acre.
The next service will be on Sunday August 16 at 9.00am.
A message from Eoghan Shiels
Chair, West Acre Parish Council
As we emerge from our various forms of lockdown and indeed for some of you a long period of relative isolation into our new post Covid world of social distancing and masks it’s perhaps time for the village to take stock.
The PC has heard many stories of neighbour looking after neighbour delivering food, medicine and indeed more recently a few have started to make and share face masks – all a sign of a positive & caring community. The pubs take away service seems to have been a success and very much appreciated in the village and also indeed further afield. We can now look hopefully forward to it reopening on the 4th July – that’s a day to anticipate with some excitement.
We have had a glorious spring of weather and the estates exciting rewilding process ongoing around the village offers us a much healthier landscape and context for our lives and for all within the wider parish area.
There is therefore much for our community to take pride in and to cherish and, as we all know West Acre Estate plays, by far, the major role in the stewardship of both the landscape and built infrastructure of the village which we all enjoy. The estate will also understandably want to optimise income streams and clearly this can offer many positives - delivering biodiversity, improved housing stock & reusing older buildings (Abbey Barns) or utilising under used land. Increased footfall could also be of benefit to local business especially our pub. The brewery will, we hope, be successful but this has already lead to various concerns in relation to traffic, noise and smell which have led to formal complaints to the Local Authority and currently being investigated. The theatre we again hope will remain a fulcrum of activity once it is able to emerge from the current lockdown constraints.
Bradmoor Woods glamping site will presumably open again for business shortly with, we understand, restrictions on amplified music which should reduce the risk of noise impacting residents as it did last year.
The future of the church, possibly including the village hall, remain issues of debate and concern.
Partly as a result of all of the above but also because of the sudden hiatus when the relaxing of lockdown combined with the fine weather we have found out that West acre is becoming increasingly well known as a great destination with a beautiful and accessible river, a place to visit as a local alternative to longer journeys to the coast and other resorts. Whilst the majority of you probably take considerable pleasure in seeing visitors enjoy the beauty of West Acre’s Nar Valley landscape there is also the difficult question of balancing access for visitors against the
negative impacts – some of you have approached the PC through the lockdown period with concerns such as;
• Ad-hoc and intensive parking on the green in front of the church impacting negatively on its setting and cause damage to surfaces not intended to take these peak volumes.
• Mill Lane leading to the local river ford – informal overspill parking from the Mill/common car park (which has often been full in recent times) causing erosion to verges and gradual degradation of this sensitive location.
• Our visitors often leave an extensive mess for residents to clean up.
Whilst the various recent more extreme visitor problems have clearly arisen after the very unusual lockdown period and we don’t know what things will be like next winter it is likely that collectively the village will need to plan for more visitors and not less. It will be interesting therefore to see how things are over the coming summer holiday months.
The parish council is the body recognised by the local planning authority with whom to consult when problems such as noise arise or applications for development are made within our parish area. In all of this we would seek to make sure that the village’s status in the local plan in which it is currently designated as a ‘Smaller Village and Hamlet” - with only very limited development potential is respected. In this regard the parish council, would aim ensure that Norfolk Highways, the West Norfolk Planning and Environment teams, Natural England, Historic England, The Environment Agency, along with a range of other stakeholders including of course West Acre Estate are aware of the views of parish residents when any future planning applications come forward in the parish area.
Whilst our resources are very limited indeed The Parish Council has started a discussion with the estate (interrupted by lockdown) in order to see if there is any merit in coordinating a village plan/vision which integrates residents’ views with the estate’s own business/village development vision.
With this idea in mind do you have any problems/issues and ideas that you would like pass on to the Parish Council or estate? If so, why not come to our next Annual Village Meeting on 10 August - Alec Birkbeck has kindly offered to attend in order to update us with regard to the estate’s rewilding project and any other possible other development plans and of course to answer questions.
The PC is particularly keen to see and hear from younger families and from residents at the warren, Pretoria and High House.
Chair, West Acre PC
One of an occasional series by Jeremy Cameron with the focus on a West Acre resident
When you book a holiday,' said the travel agent, 'what exactly are you looking for? You say you like to be active. A pool, I suppose, first of all?’
'Yes please. Fifty metres if possible.’
'Er.... and would you like to hire bicycles perhaps for the family?’
'No, I'll take my own, thank you.'
'And would you be doing any jogging?’
'Yes. a bit of jogging.’
'How about this triathlon in Berlin, then?’
'That will do nicely.’
Geraldine Jordan had lived a perfectly blameless life until she was forty. A few years earlier she moved to Norfolk with her husband Gerard and children. She did no special exercise apart from spending two decades ferrying three children around their school, various activities and social life. All perfectly normal.
Then, when she was forty, someone asked her if she would like to go running. Oh dear.
You couldn't say Geraldine was single minded. After all, there are three events in the triathlon. Also, she likes to go somewhere interesting to compete. Berlin, New York, Mexico and Alcatraz for example. (And Bolton.) She likes to combine events with holidays. But on that fateful day at forty, life changed.
Her first marathon took five hours.
This is highly respectable. Most of the population could not do 26 miles in fifty hours, let alone five. Nevertheless, within a few years she had reduced this time by an hour and was highly peeved that she was still a minute over four hours.
In general, we would prefer not to know what is involved in a triathlon. The mere thought of it brings on a stitch; sitting in an armchair and looking at the itinerary could cause a hernia. Here is a rough guide.
1. Sprint (Hah!). 750 metre swim (Thank you, that's enough.) Then: 20k bike ride. Then! 5k run.
That's all in one year? What's that you say? All in one DAY?
2. Standard: Olympic.
3. Half Iron Man. Middle Distance.
4. Iron Man. (Work yet to be done on eyesight in the sport's administrators. 800 women now competing.)
This one is 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike (King's Lynn to Buckingham Palace for example.) Then full marathon, 26 miles and don't forget 385 yards. All to be done in 17 hours to qualify as Iron Man. She did it in 16.
"Drop me off at Alcatraz.”
They did indeed. They shoot the competitors (no, not with a gun) into the sea at the prison and they have to swim back to shore. That's the start of the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon (see photo). She did this one with her brother.
Geraldine qualified for Alcatraz by winning her age group in the London Triathlon. She represented Britain in her age group in Mexico. She has qualified for Britain again this year but the virus may put paid to that.
Geraldine has reached a new age group (55) this year. She competes in "about six" triathlons annually. She is an improving athlete. “As I get older and wiser, I get faster.”
She belongs to Renegade Runners and King's Lynn Triathlon Club. (There are more of them?) She is grateful for the facilities at Norfolk Woods Holiday Park and even more grateful to her family who trail all over the world, poor things, to support her.
By the way, she has a sideline with Annie Harper in Sports Jewellery called Charming Rewards.
Finally, she lives in the house occupied in the 1950s by the venerable Canon Caley. He moved more slowly.
Geraldine, pictured at Alcatraz