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Cley post box

February 2015 report

Many months ago I downplayed the chances of anyone wanting to drill here for shale gas using the hydraulic fracturing process commonly known as ‘fracking’, arguing that the stage upon which we strut and fret our hour is built on over a thousand feet of chalk; there is plenty of water there – it’s our main aquifer – but no gas. Yet underneath all that chalk there was indeed shale and North Norfolk was to be included in territorial blocks open to bidding for drilling licences. How could we fight off the frackers?

Fracking is a controversial technique generally decried by everyone except fossil fuel fanatics, and this government which is very supportive for various reasons, none of them ethically sound. So keen was the government to facilitate this industry that they changed the trespass law to allow frackers to drill under your land without your consent – and probably to pollute your water supply at the same time. The government even announced they would allow fracking in National Parks until a rebellion in the Commons on 26 January led to the passing of an amendment banning the activity in National Parks, AONBs (hooray), groundwater Special Protection Zones and SSSIs. A further amendment calling for a total moratorium on fracking was heavily defeated because Labour abstained. Why did they do that? Are they nuts? Answers on a postcard, please.

The government meanwhile is doing all it can to undermine the new ‘regulations’ with a minister telling MPs “in the case of AONBs…given their size and dispersion, it might not be practical to guarantee that fracking will not take place under them in all cases without unduly constraining the industry”. In other words the will of parliament is as nothing compared to the desires of the dirty frackers. Another problem is that the North Norfolk AONB is so narrow – rarely more than about five miles wide – that Cuadrilla or whoever could, legitimately, set up drilling rigs just south of Bodham and drill under the supposedly protected area from there. Even without the undermining, our water supply could be well-and-truly fracked. One to keep an eye on.

The on-going project to restore the old harbour quay to something of its former glory continues with a working party of volunteers organised by Simon Read for the weekend of 28th February-1st March – see advert in the February GVN for details. The intention is to do some preparatory clearance of reeds and other detritus before contractors move onto the site to do the heavy work. As that is dependent on funding it may not happen before March 2016, but this work will not have been in vain because taming the reeds is likely to be a long job. We owe it to our maritime heritage to make this happen.

Part of our maritime heritage is, or mostly was, reflected in the names of some of the houses. There were for instance four which carried names associated with South Africa: Umona, Umvolosi, Umtata and Umgeni. These were the names of ships of the Bullard & King line which traded to South Africa – not from Cley obviously – with Cley residents as their Masters. There were at least three families, all inter-related by marriage, who retired back to their native village where they bought these properties. Or something like that.

Another link lost was Homer Cottage. When Captain Long retired from the sea he named his house after his last ship, the Homer, and so it remained until a few years ago when new owners threw away the name along with most of the original building. And now it seems the poor old Fiducia is for the breakers’ yard too. The Fiducia was built at Scarborough in 1859 as a trawler but later converted to cargo work sailing out of the Blakeney haven. She was ketch-rigged and rated at 55 tons. She was eventually sold to new owners in Lowestoft. How a rather nondescript 1950s bungalow comes to be named after a surprisingly graceful local ship that left the area some fifty years earlier is one of those little mysteries. It could of course be purely coincidental – but I’m not going to admit that, am I.

Quite a month for disappointment as I have been informed that the phone inside our smartly painted phone box doesn’t work. It cannot work. There’s nothing wrong with the line but the apparatus – which large signs point out is a card-only phone – lacks anywhere to put the card. BT have been informed and will no doubt be full of ideas about where to stick it. The card, that is. Still, mustn’t be too unkind as we still want to have a WiFi hotspot installed there. Oh, and a working phone would be nice.

The next meeting of the Cley Parish Council will be held on Tuesday 3rd March 2015 in the Armes Room at the rear of the Village Hall, starting at 7.30pm. So far as I know there are no plans to change its name.

Richard Kelham

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