Friday, 30 March 2012

Ancient rivers, modern pipes


SO how many rivers are there in Norwich? The Wensum of course and the Yare too. Those in the know might add the Tud at Costessey and the Tas near Lakenham. But how about the Dalymond and the Dallingfleet, the Great and the Little Cockey and the Muspole? These too were once well-known names to Norwich citizens. To a greater or lesser extent they still exist today. But hidden beneath concrete and contained within culverts they are Norwich’s secret rivers. Archaeologist Brian Ayers is the expert. Most of what I’ve written here relies on his book “Norwich: Archaeology of a Fine City”.

The Muspole ran into the north bank of the Wensum from small pool of the same name near the modern Muspole Street. Water from the Great Cockey still emerges from a pipe (main picture above, canoe-view of course) near the Art College having flowed through the city centre from the high ground near All Saints Green. The Little Cockey ran from Chapelfield down to the river at Westwick Street.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADownstream, the Dalymond rose in Old Catton and entered the Wensum off Fishergate at Hansard Lane. Again its outfall into the Wensum can only be seen by canoe (left). Lastly the Dallingfleet ran into the Wensum between the grounds of the cathedral and Foundry Bridge.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Utopia in a Norwich car park


WHEN Rory Macbeth started this artwork in 2006, the bricks and mortar which formed his canvas were due to demolished the following year. But six years later the old Eastern Electricity building is still standing. And so if you do find yourself wanting to read the entire text of Thomas More’s 16th century work Utopia without resorting to the library, just wander down to the car park off Westwick Street. At the time of the contemporary art exhibition, Macbeth said he’d done it because the work was “as valid now as it was when it was written”. An online article written at the time by Sarah Morley continued:

“Utopia is 100 pages long, so Rory worked out precisely where each line must be positioned for the entire 40,000 words to fit on the wall.

J bridge 041

“I like expressing the text through graffiti,” he explained, “as most graffiti is utopian – the world would be perfect if this or that were different.”

The building, visible from across the river, is due to be demolished in about a year’s time, so there won’t be any need to wash the graffiti off if anyone objects to Rory’s style of art. On the contrary, he has had lots of positive support: “We’ve made lots of friends, everybody wants to know what we’re doing.”

How much longer can it survive I wonder?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Jarrold: playing hard to get

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SO how on earth do you get a decent photo of the new Jarrold Bridge across the Wensum then? It’s not that I don’t like this sinuous j-shaped structure, even the designer rust grows on you after a while.  It’s just that when you get your camera out, it fails to look enough like a bridge, which ever angle you tackle it from.

Bridge basics for photographers: frame your shot so that you can show us one river, two banks and a sense of A to B. Bonus points of course for a cathedral spire. Hmmm, very tricky to tick every box unless you’re in a helicopter or at the very least the top of Dragonfly House – the new Broads Authority HQ on the north side of the river.

These are the best of my efforts tonight, but I did get my timing wrong. Yes there was a lovely weak evening sunlight, but it had just sunk low enough below the law courts to be of very little use.

* See some much better work from the experts on flickr.

J bridge 003

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Sir Alfred and the Wensum

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SOMETIMES this blog works perfectly – if you’re patient. It’s eight months since I took this picture as I kayaked down the river Wensum from Ringland to Costessey. It was a beautiful day and there was a decent photo everywhere you looked. I was quite pleased with this one: a freshly painted gypsy wagon, now serving as a summer house in the garden of one of Costessey’s many riverside properties. (Why do pictures taken on the river always look better for something small but man-made on the far bank?)

Anyway Sara Waterson from the Sir Alfred Munnings Museum Facebook page has been in touch to say could she use it on her site. Sir Alfred, for those who don’t know, was one of the most famous English painters of the first half of the 20th century. He excelled in painting horses but started off life as a commercial graphic artist. He’s a big part of my Costessey chapter and you can see my full entry here.

This photo is of use to Sara because Munnings loved the countryside around Ringland and Costessey. And he knocked around with the gypsies who wandered this area too, so it has a nice “back to the future” feel for her. But look what she has provided in return.

Munnings from mus2

This is Munnings himself on the left of the picture with friends ..on the Wensum at Costessey. The perfect picture to tie a great artist to my river. Now I’ve just got to persuade her to let me include it in the book as well as this blog.

* The Munnings Museum, is at Dedham in err, Constable Country. It’s excellent. I’ve used it as a picturesque service station off the A12 when coming back up from London.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Norwich: A Shattered City

Norwich A Shattered City

A FULL review will follow when I get a minute, but just a quick word to say that this new book by Steve Snelling is a must for anyone with an interest in the 20th century history of Norwich. The horrific Baedeker bombing raids on the city during two April nights in 1942 have been covered before of course, most notably in our time by Joan Banger in “Norwich at War”. But the depth and the scale of Steve’s work puts it in a class of its own. Any loyal EDP reader knows he can write. This book shows that he can combine meticulous research with a firm grasp of the bigger picture too. OK, I am at the anorak end of the market, but I gulped the whole book down in three sittings. Perhaps it needed 70 years in order for someone to have the right sense of perspective to write the definitive account. ..Or maybe Steve could have done it all along. He just needed to retire from his busy job at the paper first.

* More on Steve’s own blog here