Norwich couple’s special Christmas engagement

It was the perfect spot for a romantic Christmas proposal in a winter wonderland - but such moments may no longer be possible if fears that the woods could be lost to development are realised.

Families and walkers in Thorpe St Andrew have turned an ordinary holly tree into a magical Christmas snow scene as a festive way of showing how much they value the town's threatened woodlands.

And this week Thorpe bus driver John Ahorni chose to propose to fiancee Lynda Clarke beneath the snow-covered tree in the Belmore wood off Pound Lane.

The tree, on a popular route for dog walkers, has been decorated with baubles, decorations and messages of support for the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands and its campaign to stop the woods from housing development.

Lynda, 45, said: 'It was just magical. It was a special evening for us, being winter solstice, the lunar eclipse and the anniversary of our first meeting all rolled into one, and what better setting in the snow, under the moonlight, by the pretty holly tree in our woods.'

The couple were introduced through a friend and started a long-distance friendship as John is originally from the Faroe Islands. They are yet to set a date, but are hoping to tie the knot in 2011.

Their Booty Road home backs on to the woods, and the tree is just a few minutes walk away.

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Lynda said: 'I had a good idea it was on the cards because December 21 has always been a very special day for us.

'I could tell something was afoot because we did look for the rings on Saturday, but it was up to him about when and where.

'He suggested a walk because the moon was out and it was a lovely bright evening.

'We went through the back gate and out and to the snow-covered holly tree, as we had gone to hang a decoration.

'Then he proposed.'

However, given the snow underfoot, Mr Ahorni chose not go down on one knee.

'He didn't because it was very cold,' said Miss Clarke, who is a support worker.

'We don't want anythng to happen to the wood. It's a beautiful wood and like another world.'

Plans are being drawn up for at least 630 homes, and possibly as many as 800 homes, in a major development for the Belmore, Racecourse and Brown's Plantations off Salhouse Road, Plumstead Road East and Pound Lane.

The Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust, one of the landowners, says its intention is to create a 'large woodland amenity', but the friends group says the plans would decimate the woods and decimate an important wildlife site.

Paul Andrew, who walks his miniature Schnauzer Alfie twice a day in the woods, came up with the idea of inviting all those who love the woods and do not want to see them built upon and destroyed, to come and hang a Christmas decoration on the Holly tree.

Mr Andrew, of Plumstead Road East, said:' I just wanted to do something positive to help keep this issue in the public eye. We've also said that for every bauble hung we will get a fat ball and hang it up in the woods for the birds during the winter.

'I think it's a real privilege to walk through the woods and I wouldn't object to forming a friends group which had an annual subscription to keep them.

'It's been nice to see how many decorations there are and what a talking point it has been among people who use the woods.'

Lorna Beckett, of the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands, said: 'It's been wonderful to see the reaction in such a short time and to see the degree of public support for the woods.

'It's a feelgood festive display of how people feel about the woods.'

More about the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands is available at

Do you have a quirky story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email