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River Nar

The River Nar rises a few miles east of the village of Litcham and then flows westwards for 25 miles before joining the Great Ouse near King's Lynn. For most of its course it is a delightful trout stream.

River Nar at Narborough

River Nar at Narborough Mill

At Castle Acre - where the Peddar's Way crosses - there is a much-photographed footbridge across the river. The ruins of the Cluniac priory here were used as a  location for the filming of Roger Corman's version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tomb of Ligeia.

The river has a number of other literary links beginning at West Acre which was the birthplace of Margaret Fountaine (1862-1940) - the diarist and lepidopterist. Fountaine was the eldest of seven children and her father was Rev John Fountaine. From the age of sixteen she kept a diary - meticulously recording her many trips abroad to collect butterflies. She visited Tibet, Australia, South Africa and the West Indies. Her butterfly collection, numbering some 22,000 specimens, was bequeathed to Norwich Castle Museum and is known as the Fountaine-Neimy collection. She died at the age of 78 in Trinidad and is buried in an unmarked grave in Brookwood Cemetery there.

A few miles further downstream lies the village of West Acre - which was the birthplace of Anthony C. Wilson (1916-86) who was the creator of the Norman and Henry Bones detective stories. The boys - who are cousins aged fourteen and sixteen solve mysteries in the fictitious fenland village of Sedgewick. After retiring from teaching Wilson lived at East Walton Common which is only a few miles from Westacre.

At Narborough the river passes through the mill - close to All Saints Church where there is a memorial plaque commemorating the airmen who lost their lives while serving at Narborough Aerodrome. It was here during the First World War that Captain W.E. Johns served and the experience almost certainly inspired his series of 'Biggles' books. He was a flight instructor at the aerodrome - but had previously worked as a sanitary engineer in Swaffham.

There is also a memorable poem by John Press which records a trip to Narborough Church:

Narborough Church

I stroll across the railway bridge,
Past cottages with pink-wash walls;
My sentimental pilgrimage
Deposits me inside the church
As the chill autumn evening falls.

A seventeenth-century gentleman
Leans nonchalantly on his side;
His cold stone eyes appear to scan
The casual visitor who admires
The face that art has petrified.

A snapshot of the football team
Of nineteen-ten slants on a nail.
Some of these gawky youths who seem
Fit only for a rustic farce
Found graver parts at Passchendale.

This yellowing print, that crumbling stone,
Commemorating buried lives,
Might tell a saint that love alone,
When pride of art and body's strength
Grow dull and pitiable, survives.

But, standing here, I find it hard
To bandy such a word about.
Whatever flames grows cold and charred,
All self-consuming passion dies
And time stamps the last embers out.

My parents, married in this place,
I, baptized in this angel font,
Have left here not a single trace -
My father dead, my mother old
And I a mourning revenant.

The rags of flesh, the splintered bone,
Put off their lustre in the shade
Sooner than print or chiselled stone,
Though in the end time mars the bust
And the weak tints of sepia fade.

I walk in darkness to my car,
And drive along the narrow lane
That scores the landscape like a scar
To where my oblivious children lie
Cocooned by sleep from wind and rain.

After Narborough the river curves westwards and then heads north towards Lynn. It passes through West Winch which is the burial place of Osbert Lancaster (1908-1986) who was regular visitor to East Winch Hall when he was a child. The hall features in his autobiography All Done from Memory (1953).




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