COMMENT: Lyn of Littleport by Lyn Guest de Swarte

Victor Watson

Victor Watson - Credit: Archant

Not your average village Littleport is not everyone’s idea of what an English village looks like. Or what the average population are like, or do in their everyday life.

When you tell town and city dwellers that you live in a village, they immediately imagine Agatha Christie’s St Mary Mead and Miss Marple, or Caroline Graham’s Midsomer and Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby.

The fact is that although there are quite a few picturesque villages, both those locations are indeed figments of the authors’ imaginations.

As are the myriad characters with which their tales are peopled.

In common with most writers of adult fiction set in the English countryside, neither Christie or Graham were born, grew up, or even ever lived amongst the inhabitants of villages.

Just as an aside you might know that Ms Christie spent her life between the big cities of the world and big country houses, while Barnaby’s creator comes from Nuneaton and now resides in a town in Suffolk.

Celebrated children’s author, Enid Blyton, of the ‘Famous Five’ rural adventures, doesn’t do any better. Ms Blyton was born and died in London, and also lived in style in country houses.

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Richmal Crompton and her forever 11-year-old mischievous middle class scamp William Brown, does a lot better on the reality of village life side.

Ms Crompton lived in what is even now a leafy wooded area on the borders of the Kent countryside that she pretty accurately described in her stories. But none of them could be confused with the village of Littleport.

That is except the ‘Paradise Barn’ series of children’s books written by Victor Watson!

Similarity to our rather austere fen settlement may well be because Victor Watson was born and grew up in Littleport. (Interestingly he enjoyed reading the William Brown books I just mentioned).

His Mum, Emily Manning, came from a large travelling fairground family, and his dad George from Littleport, were proprietors of the printers, stationers and bookshop, here in the village.

Victor’s books are set in the second world war, and its main characters are Molly Barnes whose Mum runs a guest house, Abigail Murfitt whose mum operates the level crossing gates next to the railway, and Adam Swales who has been evacuated to ‘Great Deeping’ wherein the stories are set, from London.

This trio of friends have a secret den in a room the local farmer has let them use in his barn on the edge of the village.

Everyone from Littleport will immediately recognise the locations – and the characteristics of its people - and let’s hope that any television producers who decided to film ‘Paradise Barn’ ‘The Deeping Secrets’ ‘Hidden Lies’ or ‘Everyone a Stranger’ will enjoy filming in and around our own unique fenland village settlement. Harry Potter watch-out!

We don’t need to make things up! We also have a real magical tradition in England and none more so than around these parts.

Secret society

When horses became 19th century new technology a secret society was formed to pool, and keep to itself, methods esoteric and material, to break and train these highly prized farm and transport animals.

Littleport’s Deborah Curtis Watson has written the script and directed a historical drama that touches on that supernatural and old tradition of the fens called, ‘The Horseman’s Word’ filmed in Littleport’s Adams Heritage Centre and the surrounding land.

JH Adams was the old forge and hardware shop in Main Street before entrepreneur, Peter Audus, bought it and gave the shop to Littleport as a Heritage Centre.

A film was made by Adam Giles and Richard Millon, available as a DVD for only £12 from the Bargain Centre in Main Street.

And you can keep cool as the spring proceeds to warm us up by buying ‘Catching Ice’ all about speed skating on the Washes made by the same Welney & Littleport Division of the Fen Centre committee member and skater, Adam Giles and his Cambridge Film Works company.

Farmers Market

Feeding the body as well as the mind, the Heritage Centre hosts Littleport’s Farmers Market on the first and third Saturday, 9am -1pm, of every month.

There’s been so much going on in Littleport since last week, and lots to look forward to.

On Bank Holiday weekend for instance: Saturday 30 at the Crown Inn, Alan Beck, 9pm til late. Leisure Centre, Race Night. Ex Servicemen’s Club, Bingo.

Sunday (1) leisure centre quiz night in aid of Littleport Community Primary School, 7pm. Cuppa, cake and company, Littleport Village Hall, 2.30pm to 4.30pm.

Monday (2) leisure centre, EABCC dog show, all day.

Tuesday (3) The Littleport Society, David Sherman on the Littleport Riots, Village Hall, 7.30pm.

The Crown Inn charity quiz night, 7pm.

Wednesday (4) leisure centre, prize bingo, 6.30pm.

All our pubs, clubs and eateries, Italian, Indian, Chinese, Turkish or English are worth a visit within walking distance of each other, and don’t forget Sharman’s Garden Centre in Camel Road has a good café too.

Scenery may not be ‘chocolate box’

Our scenery and buildings may not be of the old chocolate box or biscuit tin variety, but we have much in common with other rural communities.

Mind you if people who don’t have the good fortune to live here could see and hear some of our residents sounding off about perceived wrongs like the tearing up of an orchard to build houses, or car drivers using our roads as race tracks, or even whether or not to leave the EU, among other knotty subjects, they might agree with the entrenched notion that those who live on the fens are a wild and hostile bunch!

Victor Watson says: “In my books, Great Deeping resembles Littleport where I spent my childhood. But it isn’t exactly the same as Littleport. It is its own place where anything can happen – and does.”

Well I say Victor, with a smile, that is exactly like Littleport!