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Coltishall is a busy village lying on the River Bure - seven miles north of Norwich. Today it marks the end of navigation on the river but in the past wherries could sail as far as Aylsham with their cargoes of grain and ice and coal. Some of these wherries would almost certainly been built at  Allen's boatyard in the village. The official head of navigation is Horstead Lock - close to the remains of Horstead mill - which sadly burnt down in 1963.

Rising Sun Pub at Coltishall

The Rising Sun pub at Coltishall

In his moving poem Coltishall River - the poet Michael Mackmin writes about a woman in a boat on the river  - glimpsed from a car window. The poem may have been inspired by the view from the hump-backed Coltishall Bridge which is a bottleneck on the Norwich to North Walsham road.  The poem appears in Mackmin's collection 23 Poems which was published by Happenstance Press. Mackmin, who lives in nearby Aylsham, is also the editor of the renowned poetry magazine The Rialto.

Michael Mackmin © Nick Stone

(It is also said that the ghost of Anne Boleyn's father can be seen riding across the bridge at certain times of year.)

Coltishall River

In her black swimsuit she stands in the boat,
her feet holding the floor of the boat;
she is smiling, she is talking to someone, her hair
(fair, golden, some pale colour) is
beginning to push loose from the pins:
I am watching from the car window
this is some film I think,
the green rushes, the black of the boat, the
white of her knees, her skin, the black swimsuit,
the blue sky, and then
I have driven past.

It is not the she or I this
moment in a day, or me desiring: (what I desire,
a kiss, to be not
looking from the car window imagining more
imagining love). It is, as the saying is,
the end of a perfect day, day on the river; and it is
the sudden illumination, possible
creation of an idea of God - love
imaginable beyond this love, beginning
to push loose from the black swimsuit,
not doing so
eternally standing holding the floor of the boat,
and then
I have driven past.

The famous RAF base, located close to Coltishall, which closed in 2006 was the inspiration for Janet Mark's children's story Thunder and Lightnings (1976). In the book, Andrew's family move up to Norfolk from Kent and he develops a fascination with the Lightning fighters which are based here but which are under threat of being scrapped.


More photographs of Coltishall

Photographs of RAF Coltishall





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