'It's quintessentially England' - Q&A with John Stirland

John Stirland, from Fakenham.

John Stirland, from Fakenham. - Credit: Supplied by John Stirland

We're shining a spotlight on people who live or work in the area as part of a series of Q&As. This week we're featuring John Stirland, 71, from Fakenham.  

How would you best describe your job or role in the community?

I am a big believer in getting involved in the local community and learning about the place you live.

Being a horticulturist all my career, I recently attended the AGM of the Fakenham and District Horticultural Association and left the meeting as vice-chairman.

Growing and displaying plants is wonderful therapy, both physically and mentally, so we have big plans for the re-formed FDHA - Fakenham Gardening Club.

How long have you lived in Fakenham?

We moved to Fakenham last February from the Nottingham area where I was involved, thought horticulture, with local television and radio.

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The time since has been taken up with getting the house as we wanted and most important for me, creating the new garden. Fakenham is a special town and I am very much feeling totally at home here.

What would you do if you were mayor for a day?

Queens Park would have a revamped community garden to go with its fabulous exercise and play facilities. I would find a suitable indoor meeting place for the teenagers to use and develop as they often seem lost at present.

Speeding in the town would also be dealt with.

What is your favourite landmark in the area?

Wiverton Downs is a favourite place for me as the views from there are just stunning.

To the north you have a panorama of the coastal area from Blakeney across to Salthouse. Most spectacular however, is the woodland studded views over Glandford and the Glaven Valley on towards Bayfield and the green horizon beyond. Quintessentially England.

What is your favourite pub?

I like the atmosphere and of course the beer in the The Barsham Arms. On a nice day and staying very local it’s nice to sit outside The Limes on Bridge Street and watch the world, and characters, go by.

Which shops do you rely on?

I really look forward to the Thursday market in Fakenham which still has a fine range of stalls. Who can resist a fresh pork pie and a farmhouse loaf?

Fortunately, we are within walking distance of the town centre so most of what we need is close by, including our preferred supermarket. Wards timber and hardware store has also been most helpful with the garden build.

What is your favourite place to eat out in your area?

As a member of Pensthorpe, we usually go once a week for breakfast and then a walk around the park. I enjoy home cooking especially barbecue but have always liked the pub food at The King’s Arms in Blakeney.

Aerial picture of Pensthorpe Natural Park

A talk about conservation at Pensthorpe Natural Park will reveal more about its work with corncrakes and curlews, as well as its role in the wild corridor of the Wensum - Credit: Pensthorpe

What is a perfect day for you in North Norfolk?

It would need to be on the longest day to get everything in. A train ride on the Poppy Line followed by a walk along the cliffs at Weybourne.

On to Morston and out to see the seals and terns before returning home for that barbecue but calling in on the way at South Creake Plant Centre.

Grey seals at Morston.

Grey seals at Morston. - Credit: christaylorphoto.co.uk

Which places would you recommend to visitors?

All the places I have mentioned but the vast expanse of Holkham Beach must be on the list.

Sheringham and Cromer are to be recommended as you can’t come to Norfolk and not sample a crab sandwich. A train or bus trip to Norwich should also be on the cards.

Cromer crab is one of Norfolk's most famous delicacies.

Cromer crab is one of Norfolk's most famous delicacies - Credit: Antony Kelly/Archant

Who is your North Norfolk hero?

It has to be Lord Nelson. At school in Nottinghamshire, I was in Nelson house so got to learn about the great hero early on.

I have studied him through books and now I am living in his home territory and feeling his spirit.

Admiral Lord Nelson, 1801 by William Beechey

Admiral Lord Nelson, 1801 by William Beechey. - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

What do you most love about the area?

The diversity and nature of the landscape, especially the chalk streams, the Glaven and the Stiffkey in particular.

The coast is unique in its geology and palaeontology and is steeped in both natural and human history, all the things that I enjoy studying and reading about.

Oh, and listening the Norfolk dialect which is just ‘bootiful.’