KELLING is the seaside village to the north of the town of Holt. High Kelling is a separate community and nowadays it is the more populous of the two. High Kelling is close to the town of Holt, and is only a few hundred yards from Farfield, my boarding house at Gresham’s School.
High Kelling consists of houses strung out along the Cromer Road. It has a Post Office and two sanatoriums. Pine Heath was used as a care home by 1966 when I used to visit the residents. The other establishment, Home Place, was from 1955 used for hospital patients to recuperate after their operations. I visited my Aunt Olive there in the early 1970s when she had been hospitalised. She was staying in the grand building now known as Voewood House. It is now used as what it was built for, a private dwelling if on a grand scale. Back when Aunt Olive was a patient it was used as part of Kelling hospital. This hospital was originally a TB sanatorium and its proximity made Voewood House unpopular as a residence. It eventually became part of the sanatorium. Built 1903-5 Voewood House is a remarkable building, not wholly to my taste. Although it is surfaced with local flint its structure is in fact built entirely of reinforced concrete.
High Kelling was also the home of my friend Jonnie Cousell; he was a great enthusiast for litierary figures that i had not even heard of in those days. I wonder what has become of him? I last heard of him when he was working in Garlands of Norwich when it burnt down in 1970. I did catch sight of him at an Old Greshamian’s reunion a few years ago, but I did not have an opportunity to speak.
I don’t know if the railway station on the North Norfolk Railway, known as Holt Station, is in fact in High Kelling, but it is much closer to the village than to Holt itself. The railway certainly runs through Kelling as it separates High Kelling from Kelling Heath.
Kelling Heath is a large area of wild countryside that has largely remained in its distinctive state. I will not say that it has been left untouched because heathland needs regular burning off to keep the advance of scrub and young trees at bay. I can recall at least one occasion during my schooldays when it was set on fire deliberately; the heather soon recovers but the other woody growth is killed off. Kelling Heath is on high ground; in geological terms it is part of the glacial moraine that forms the Holt/Cromer Ridge. There are a number of Bronze Age barrows along this bit of heath from Kelling to Cley. In Kelling the heather ends abruptly on Holgate Hill, the steep slope down to the verdant fields, which lead towards the sea.
Although the village of Kelling, which lies between Weyborne and Salthouse, is a seaside parish there is no road access to the sea. In his respect is resembles Paston, another Norfolk coastal community that is cut off from the beach. Kelling Heath is large enough to include a 250 acre static caravan park that does not obtrude onto the wild nature of Kelling, because this part of the heath has been colonised by trees. The caravans are hidden by the vegetation. Molly and I stayed there once when our children were very small. Since then the park has increasingly gone in for log cabins which a bit more classy than caravans I suppose, although perhaps less fun. The park prides itself on the wildlife that can be found there, and used to regularly host David Bellamy.
Kelling was frequently visited by the boys of Gresham’s School in the 1960s, as it was a convenient place for cross country running. The Holt Lowes was perhaps more suitable, as the run there avoided roads and traffic, while the run of about three miles around Kelling was all on public roads, but it was considerably closer to the school. Holt Rugby Club is in High Kelling and was passed on this run. So too was the railway, although only the trackbed was left after the line closed in 1964. Trains did not return to Kelling until the 1980s when the NNR relaid the track.
Kelling Heath was also used by the Cadet Force one Field Day to stage a mock battle. We were dressed in full battle dress with ammo pouches. We fired off our blanks from ancient .303 rifles, throwing ourselves into the heather to avoid being shot ourselves. It was impressed on us that we had to keep all the spent cartridges and return them; otherwise mischievous boys would keep live ammunition, which although blanks were still powerful enough to be dangerous in the wrong hands. The NCOs had thunder flashes to hurl towards the ‘enemy’. It was great fun, but I rather doubt that it goes on today.