Trip to the Broads was the perfect tonic for me amid fiasco of Brexit
PUBLISHED: 17:34 26 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:34 26 March 2019
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James Marston had never had the pleasure of the Acle Straight until a trip to Norfolk last week - and it helped make him proud to be living in East Anglia
Indicative votes, entrenched positions, Norway plus, remain, leave, yes, no, indifferent, no deal, big deal – I’m getting tired of it all aren’t you?
So thankfully, this week I managed to escape – to Norfolk.
I mentioned to my family that I would be attending a church event in Halvergate, not far from the Norfolk Broads.
My father said knowingly: “Ah, the Acle Straight.”
Naturally a Suffolk lad like me might know some of the intricacies of the west Suffolk road system – I know my own landmarks like Moulton Packhorse bridge, the bit of the old A45 at Risby, Rougham Hill, Chalk Hill on the A11, the A1303 from Newmarket to Cambridge – but I had never heard of the Acle Straight, nor had I ever been to that area of Norfolk.
So to find myself up on the Acle Straight was most interesting. I spotted windmills – at least that’s what I think they were – sluices and creeks, and plenty of ditches, and a sign saying marshland grazing for sale; a bit of old England where ancient and long held traditions must still hold sway. I rather liked the great expanse and the huge skies.
I was in Halvergate to take part in a church day set aside to celebrate the Book of Common Prayer – of which I am a big fan. I received a warm welcome and enjoyed the whole experience, particularly when it came to reading some of the collects and prayers at a traditional evensong service.
What I did think on the journey back, as I crossed the marshes and headed up on the A47 and A11 back to west Suffolk and a roast dinner, was how English I really am. And how much of a country lad I am at heart.
I like village life, I like old traditions, I like how communities know each other in places like Halvergate, I like how people know where they come from. I like how people’s families have lived in the same areas for generations. I like the countryside.
As I drove back enjoying the wide open countryside for which Norfolk and Suffolk specialise I thought how lucky we all are, and if only we might open our eyes to it a little more often.
As I watch events in London I cannot help thinking that our politicians and political class have lost their way, and that perhaps we’ve indulged them for a little too long. The expenses scandal, the shouting and screaming at one another, the inability to solve the problem they created, the national embarrassment and laughing stock they have become – and still they continue to bark and shout at each other and betray and self-serve.
But we all have a say and we all have a vote and we all have a vested interest. Britain is made up of more than just the London city state – there are country people too.
It saddens me that London itself no longer feels like the capital of Britain. It has become so divorced from the rest of the UK and the gap between the super-rich and the super-poor is of Dickensian enormity, if not worse.
In all of this Northern Ireland is making its presence felt; so is Scotland. London, as ever, tries to dominate – but in many ways Brexit is an English-but-not-London phenomenon, a roaring of the long silent English lion after that dangerous devolution rubbish and the divisive Scottish independence vote, a cross-class and cross-political party roaring that ought to have come as no surprise.
Having said all that, as I sat at evensong on Sunday evening in an ancient village church looking at the stained glass and the tablets and memorials dedicated to those who have gone before us, I couldn’t help think that as our nation goes through its ups and downs and through its internal battles, when this episode is finally said and done we still have much to link us, much to bind our communities together, much to offer one another, much shared history, and much to be grateful for.
At least that’s what I hoped for that evening as I drove along the Acle Straight as the shadows lengthened over the Halvergate marshes.
Does anyone know the history of the Acle Straight? Do you think there’s more to life than Brexit? Do drop James a line at firstname.lastname@example.org