Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Telegraphs, Gas and Anarchist Hobby Horses in Norwich

Changing trains at Norwich, the plan had been to stop off and have something to eat at the Coach and Horses, and get a later train back. I walked down Thorpe Road but before I reached the pub noticed a footpath signposted as leading to Rosary Road. Beside being one of those paths that draws you in, Rosary Road rang vague bells. I took the diversion.

The path led behind some houses, on.hiher ground. Soon it forked. I took the left turn, shortly to emerge onto Rosary Road. The place was familiar and a few seconds later I saw the pub, The Rosary Tavern. I had been here before, some years ago following an afternoon at Norwich Beer Festival. I had stubled across the pub on a convulted walk back to the station by happy accident. It was mentioned in the beer festival programme as being 5 minutes from the station (I hadn't seen the ad until I was actually in the pub). It was only 5 minutes using the path I had just taken. But at the time went a different way, only having a vague notion of the direction of the station. It had taken 30 minutes.

The building was still there but on closer inspection it was no longer a pub.  A plaque on the wall showed it had closed in 2009, having been a pub for over a century.  The pub sign simply reads '95'. Above the windows, where the name of the pub had one been it now says, in wording just about visible, 'Rosary Appartments'. Serviced apartments I think. In the old days the pub had been part of a planned estate housing employees of the gas works. I was sorry to see the pub gone.

I made my way downhill back towards Thorpe Road, past the 60s low rise flats next to the pub and a semi-brutalist car park/office block opposite. Eventually I came to a left turn and headed to The Fat Cat and Canary for a swift half and a pork pie. It was sunny and the front yard was occupied by builders who had knocked off for the day and their vans.

Suitably refreshed, I carried on along the road for a bit before turning left, having decided to try and do a circular walk back to the station. I found myself on 'Telegraph Lane East'. The road quickly became a steep (for East Anglia) incline and a tree lined road with some largish houses. A bit reminiscent of Hampstead, but not quite as posh.  Late I discovered the area is known as 'Thorpe Hamlet'. Parts of it had a feel of a village within a town, a sort of separate state resisting the encroachment of its surroundings. Keeping the riff raff out.

I noticed a number of blue signs that I first thought pointed to cycleways. Coming from Cambridge, why would I think they were anything else? But they were signs for pedestrian routes, which is something you don't see everyday and was heartening. And useful for someone not really knowing where he was going. Up to a point anyway as most of the nomenclature was meaningless to me.

I passed a primary school, and notice one lone parent with a pushchair up ahead. No one else around. I crossed the road and saw up ahead what looked like a water tower. Closer inspection confirmed this. A water tower with an added bonus of a TV/radio or maybe mobile mast on top of it. It seemed unusual to encounter a water tower within a city. Victorian proto-brutalism at its best!

Further along the road seemed narrower and more like a lane. The woman with the child in a pushchair I'd seen earlier had paused ahead. When I passed she stopped me and asked if I lived round there. There was a starling apparently in distress, and she didn't know what to do. I apologized and said I wasnt local and didn't know the drill for injured birds except to advise her call the RSPCA. She thanked me but looked uncertain. I thought the encounter a bit odd. The woman was middle class and confident sounding but had no idea about what to do about her concern for the bird. I left the scene, feeling a bit guilty for not offering to call the RSPB, as well as puzzled as to why the woman hadn't thought of doing this herself. I was wearing a suit so maybe I was projecting some sort of air of importance or authority that I really don't possess. The encounter showed how deceptive appearances and first impressions can be. Anyone can buy a suit from M&S for less than a ton, and anyone can cultivate a middle class accent should they so wish (I never bothered). Both part of 'spectacle' and facade.

Shortly after this the road became 'Telegraph Lane West'. The lane narrowed and started its decline downhill. I passed a splendidly decrepit sign for a pub, The William IV'. I couldn't actually make out where the entrance was but seeing the sign for sports screens I  didn' investigate further.

Telegraph Lane West continued, tree lined and narrow.

I passed a metal gate, festooned with indicipherable graffiti tags. Frustratingly I couldn't make out what lay beyond it.

A little way further, near the end of the road I encountered a magnificent gas holder. A water tower and a gas holder on the same stretch of road, in a city, not in the 'edgelands'. I felt almost blessed.

When I got to the end of the road it was apparent that at some point it had changed from Telegraph Lane West to Gas Road. Stands to reason I suppose.

At the bottom on the corner was the Lollards Pit pub. Coincidentally I had seen the pub on TV a few weeks ago in a programme presented by Dr Alice Roberts about Tudor Norwich.  The pub is so named since the Lollards, seen as heritics, were killed and buried on the site which at the time was outside the city walls. The site was shunned for a period but these days the pub features most of the hallmarks of a thriving decent boozer with a heritage angle. Apparently there is a well in the garden (I didn't have time to look) and it had a fairly convincing old world feel, despite Jimmy Somerville pleading not to be left this way from the TV on the wall.

A bizarre flyer, featuring a ghostly looking hobby horse caught my eye. Robeet Kett led a rebellion in Norwich following the enclosures and resulting hardship caused the to people of Norfolk in the 1500s. He was hung soon after. Ketts horse, and the morris/molly troup accompanying it, appear to be harnessing the rebellious spirit of this part of Norwich which goes back through the layers of it's history. I hadn't detected much of a spirit of rebellion in Thorpe Hamlet but it was only Wednesday afternoon.

'No one man is the horse. We are the Kett's Horse Society. We are the Guild of the Glad Man Ribnoners. We are the resurrected skeleton army of Stump Cross. We are the stump cross Ex-Residents Club. We are the Now or Never! drinking club'.

Over the road, I found myself on the officially sanctioned Riverside Walk. A sudden shift away from the arcane memories contained in the Lollards Pit, and the odd combination of edgelands and Hampstead that was Thorpe Hamlet. Soon after the path forced me through the beer garden of The Compleat Angler pub and across the road to the Station and home.

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