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Sep 2017

Aylsham Sign

This is halfway between Norwich and the North Norfolk coastline here in one of only five[1] UK towns to be awarded Cittaslow status. Cittaslow? No? Never heard of it, neither.

It came from Italy so pronunciations vary from 'cheeta-slough' to 'sitter-slow' and this mindful movement simply looks to improve the quality of people's lives and their communities by, well, slowing things right down.

If that's the case, this pair have been accidentally practising it for quite a few years now.

[1] Ludlow, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Llangollen and Mold (Wales) and Perth (Scotland). Barga in Italy is also a member, apparently.

Looks like they've taken it to heart here. This supposedly 'bustling' market town is deserted on a Saturday afternoon and the broad market square just acts as a sparse car park.

  The Black Boys Hotel (Market Place)

Rumours of the name range from Charles I's 'swarthiness' to the young slaves kept for real in the basement.

Either way, there's been no attempt to rename it unlike  others elsewhere in the UK.

The holistic philosophy includes the idea of slow food and no, not a 45-minute wait for a tuna toastie since that's already been done in nearby Eye.

Opposed to the industrialised manufacturing of food, the emphasis is on collaborative, local production protecting the traditional and the regional. It's, literally, the opposite of fast food so it's not known how many kebabs that Kings on Hungate Street shift on a Saturday night.

The foodie element isn't overly evident with just a couple of cafés and a Co-op™ clocked on this watch but it's colourful enough to wander around where there's some evidence of an annual food festival.

That's not until October so if you're ordering now, then that is slow. There'll be not nearly so long a delay at the checkouts in the big Tesco™s that you passed on the way in, which is sustainably built and the 'greenest in the world', they say.

  Flour & Bean (Market Place)

Nothing slow about the service in this family-run, East Anglian chain although the sandwiches had already been made. It was either here or Biddy's Kitchen near the church where, outside, there's a ginger, Geordie builder trying to get a signal.

Not your typical builder, neither, he's keen on the cobbles and the flint, although that's more Suffolk, and he's working on the housing development at Bure Meadows. This new estate could up the population, never mind the number of cars, by nearly 20% and that's got the Cittaslow-ers chattering over their back-garden fences.

Highlights, history-wise, include a thatched well although it only dates from the early 20th century. An original, much older source of water was around here somewhere, they say, but that's long since run dry, they also say.

The Parish Church could hardly be described as cobbled together. The traditional, Norfolk-clad walls would come later but the original took most of the 14th century to complete.

The Lychgate, which leads to it, refers to the corpses that were carried through to the churchyard and that would have included Humphry Repton, the creator of Sheringham Park, no less.

The church's construction is said to have been funded by John of Gaunt, a name everybody's heard of but just exactly who was he again?

Not named for his need of a good square meal, Belgian born John of Ghent would have dined quite well as a wealthy nobleman and third surviving son of Edward III.

That's him on the town sign but, living up in  Lancaster, nobody seems to have the faintest idea what his connection to the town is.

  Blickling Hall

There's another historic royal connection a little way north-west at Blickling Hall but this one's rumoured and more recent. It's the likely birthplace of Anne Boleyn, no less, although some say Hever Castle in Kent.

The early 17th century stately home and its 1,000 acres are one of Norfolk's top drawers and at £15 a pop, this is one of the National Trust™'s big hitters. This was before relations with the National Trust™ were resumed following the fiasco at Dunwich Heath so there's not much more to say and you'll have to make your own mind up.

Aylsham's also the end of the line for the  Bure Valley Railway, a tiny choo-choo that chuff-chuffs 18 miles down to Wroxham and the Broads.

Not, by the way, as in rhymes with 'pure' more 'Burr, it's freezing today, so there'll be no hanging around here on a platform.' We are honestly not that interested in these things, they just keep following you around and, anyway, that's for another day because things are a bit hurried...

We've got to get up to Sheringham to pick up some keys but they close at 4 PM and there's a wartime weekend on so parking's going to be a nightmare but some shopping is needed and the petrol's running low and I just want to check if there's a reply to that e-mail and we must remember to post that card today to get there by Monday then give dad a ring to see if his new shed's turned up then...

Hey man! Cittaslow yourself!