ROADWORKS are a necessary evil, annoying while they are digging up the highway, delaying us with endless miles of traffic cones, and bringing us to halt with red traffic lights; but then the improvements that ensue speed us on our way, and can make the scenes forgotten in our rush to be gone. There is no doubt we needed roads such as the Wymondham Bypass (on the A11) and the Yare river bridge (on the A47), but there is equally no doubt that those two dual carriageway roads have each blotted out a particularly beautiful bit of the Norfolk countryside.
To take the river bridge over the Yare first, Postwick Grove was a lovely corner of the Broads, a steep wooded hillside on the northern bank of the river just beyond Thorpe. I should say a word about pronunciation which is not how it is speltin (in a typically Norfolk way). Neither the “t” or the “w” are voiced; Possick Grove is how it sounds. Wymondham is another trap for the unwary. It has just two syllables – Windum. Postwick Grove had been celebrated as a beauty spot since the days of the Norwich School of Artists, when it provided them with the subject matter for a number of paintings by Crome and Cotman among others. In the late 20th century it had not changed greatly since the early 19th century, when the artists of the Norwich School would walk out from the City with their easel and paints to sketch the view. It was changed utterly by the civil engineering of the 1980s. It had been a quiet and peaceful place, only accessible on foot. Now it has completely lost its tranquility, being overwhelmed by a busy dual carriageway. You can drive past it, oblivious to the beauty of the past, indeed it is hard to imagine what it was once like as you rush by. I suppose Postwick Grove still exists, but only as a place name; the quiet hillside has vanished beyond recall
The Lizard at Wymondham was a similarly remote area, full of interesting flora and fauna. A large chunk of it has disappeared beneath concrete and tarmac. The remaining part has lost its special charm. Why it was called The Lizard I do not know, but I suspect it has more to do with Leppers and Lazar Houses than with reptiles. My mother used to play on the Lizard in the last years of the Great War, when the family was living at the Limes in Wymondham and my grandfather was fighting in France. The house is still there, almost the last dwelling on the Norwich Road before you get to Ketts Oak. My sister and I used to walk our dogs across the Lizard long before there was a hint of road building, and most pleasant it was too.
The Lizard forms an area of water meadow near the headwaters of the river Tiffey, which runs through Wymondham. The river runs north to join the river Yare at Barford. It never becomes a large watercourse, but here in is no more than a small beck. It is quite different from the steep hill and broad river which form Postwick Grove, but it was equally lovely in its own way.
As I said, we needed the roads that take us to London or Yarmouth with ease and a degree of safety, and we fret at the places where roads are still single carriageway. But I can’t help wondering if we have lost something very special in these two magical places. Both still exist, not totally lost in form but completely gone in the quiet remoteness that was an essential part of their charm.
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