Norfolk village plans scarecrow festival

Richard ParrThe Norfolk village of Wighton is preparing for its annual spring scarecrow festival, a quirky event with which even the likes of Worzel Gummidge would be proud to be associated.Richard Parr

It's a quintessential English village of great charm and character lying in the shadow of its much more high profile neighbour at Wells.

But what sets the hamlet of Wighton apart is its annual foray into the world of make-believe when it stages its spring scarecrow festival, a quirky event with which even the likes of Worzel Gummidge would be proud to be associated.

Since its revival to celebrate the millennium a decade ago, it has grown in stature and popularity and now over three days this Bank Holiday weekend thousands of visitors are expected to converge on its narrow roads and leafy lanes.

Visitors can gaze upon a whole host of colourful characters created in straw and set in neatly-kept gardens and at other locations like the village church.

This year the hard-working organising committee come up with characters from the pages of the village history books.

Look in one direction and you will find Seymour Stars,, Wighton's astronomer, gazing skyward, while in another hidden corner you will come across Mary Wright, a figure from the 1800s who served up a poison-laced meal that finished off both her husband and father. Turn another corner and you will spot the water miller Robert Beaton and his daughter, Judith Ladle.

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Apart from the historical theme, residents are given pretty much a free hand to let their creative skills run away with them and you will find all manner of characters from a traditional farmyard group of a cow being milked by a dairy maid with a shepherd tending his flock to a rider on a motor bike. Outside the church you are likely to greet a bride and groom posing for photographs after their wedding.

Susan Polson, who is an committee member alongside husband, Graham, and also George and Margaret Brett-Reynolds, said that when the festival was re-introduced to celebrate the millennium there were only a couple of others in existence in other parts of Norfolk.

'We seem to have set the trend and after a few years we would be inundated with letters and e-mails from people asking for advice about setting up their own festivals. People even asked if we would go and make scarecrows for them, as if we hadn't enough on our plates at Wighton,' said Mrs Polson.

Over the years village residents have fine-tuned their creations and, shall we say, they have become a little more sophisticated.

'You can't rest on your laurels and you have to continually update things to keep it fresh for the visitors,' she said.

And what is the secret of Wighton's success with straw?

'I think it's the fact that it is something everyone, young and old, can do at not much cost. Those people who say they don't consider themselves creative find, when they have a go, that they can come up with something worthwhile,' she said.

Mrs Polson added: 'One of the things about the festival is that it makes people chuckle and many of the created straw characters have a tongue-in-cheek element and that's not a bad thing these days in these troubled times if you can give people a laugh.'

Visitors are invited to make donations in collecting buckets and all proceeds go back into supporting village amenities including the village hall and church.

Wighton Scarecrow Festival information panel.

The festival runs on Saturday , Sunday and Monday from 10am until 5pm.

Refreshments, including teas, coffees, sandwiches and cakes are served in the village hall, where there will also be a display of stationary engines and vintage tractors.

On Sunday the children's making-a-scarecrow competition (all materials provided) takes place on the village common starting at 2pm. There is a car boot sale from 12 noon until 4pm on the playing field.

Entry to the event is free and there is free parking in Hall farm yard off Kirkgate Street.

More information is available from Susan Polson on 01328 820743.