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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Dads Army Weekend 2015

Dont panic Mr Mainwaring

An easy 9 mile Norfolk coastal walk to visit the Dads Army weekend hosted on the North Norfolk Railway

The third episode of the sixth series of the popular British comedy series Dad's Army was titled 'The Royal Train' in which King George VI was due to pass through Walmington-on-Sea and the platoon were to form a guard of honour. The location chosen to film this episode was Weybourne station on the North Norfolk Railway and each year this is celebrated with a Dad's Army weekend where a group of enthusiasts from the Dads Army Museum in Thetford re-enact this memorable episode.

Sheringhamn to Cromer Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
SheringhamnView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
CromerView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
9 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy

Accommodation:

Woodhill Park CampsiteView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Website
Description
Woodhill Park Campsite, Runton

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2010-10-15
Walk Time
09:30 to 16:30
Walkers
Griffmonster Kat
Weather Conditions
Overcast with some light rain showers

Walk Notes

It has to be said that the Dads Army series made an impression on many generations including myself. The original series ran from 1968 to 1977, and has been repeatedly run right through to the present day and I can state, that despite viewing each episode many times, it is still worth the effort of tuning in to see the reruns.

The series also provides some personal references as my Grandfather was a member of the Home Guard, although I only found this out in recent years otherwise he would have had a barrage of questions about life in Dads Army when I was a kid. I can also remember that when I first started senior school in 1970, due to money being tight and economies sought, unlike the other pupils who had shop bought items, my mother knitted a school scarf for this educational establishment. Now this may sound as if it has no relevance with Dads Army and my ramblings are something of a deranged mind. However, I shall expand upon the subject of the scarf as the school was Wellingborough Technical Grammar School and its colours, at the time, were similar to the colours in the scarf that Private Pike was forced to wear by his mother. The official school scarf was also somewhat similar to Pikes scarf although it was not of the coarse knitted thread that was so obvious in Pikes. My mothers home made scarf did have that coarse thread and the stripe sizes closely resembled Pikes scarf which resulted in an almost identical match. I would get regular taunts with Dads Army references at home but somehow such recognition never made it into the school yard and I got away with it! Maybe the similarities between Pike scarf and the general school scarf were such that all the pupils were fair game for a bit of Dads Army baiting and no-one dare offer a jovial taunt because they would only get the same back. Or maybe I slyly concealed the said article in my satchel, along with my much hated school cap, before getting to the school bus, and there it would remain until the end of the day when I alighted the school bus for the walk home. This second possibility seems more plausible as I have no memory of actually wearing the said scarf at school.

The plot for the original episode of Dads Army that featured Weybourne station involves the home guard platoon receiving secret orders to form a guard of honour for the Royal Train carrying King Gorge VI as it passed through Walmington-on-Sea station. The orders prove to be not so secret as Hodges, the air raid warden, and the station master and his clerk and even the vicar, verger and mayor have all got wind of the occasion. This was played out with great effect in this re-enactment because even the ticket office clerk on Sheringham Station, who bore a certain resemblance to the side character of Mr Blewitt, told us about the event! The drivers of the train and the guards also appeared aware of it, as did the station porters. And the stationmaster. And even all the passengers on the trains. The word had spread so much that Weybourne station platform was positively heaving. And it was abundantly advertised on social media and the internet! So much for the Kings arrival at Weybourne being secret!

Back to the plot. A train arrives at the station and the platoon go through their well practised routine of presenting arms only to find that this is not the Royal Train but another train which has a defective brake wheel. Once again the plot is adhered to, for every single train that pulled into Weybourne station was accompanied by the platoon parading out onto the platform, together with Hodges and a very effeminate verger dandily carrying a bright orange kerchief delicately held between his fingers. I cannot recollect the verger being that effeminate in the series. The vicar maybe but not the verger. Then there was the trailing army trooper in modern day combat uniform and a rucksack. He definitely was not in the original series. No-one seemed to know who he was and why he was accompanying the platoon. Anyway, they all form the guard of honour with much banter between Corporal Jones, Hodges, Sergeant Wilson, Captain Mainwaring and Pike before finally standing to attention and presenting arms. The King is never on the train. The train departs. The platoon departs from the platform, their route made way by a police officer in period uniform. This whole procedure is then re-enacted on the following train arrival.

In the original story the driver and guard of the train that first pulls into the station alight the train in order to get the brake wheel fixed but fall into a deep sleep after drinking some accidentally drugged tea. The platoon are therefore left in charge of getting the train out of the way of the royal train, unknowing that it has no brakes. Much mirth and merriment is had in true and typical Dads Army fashion before the train is put into a siding and the Royal Train passes. This did not happen in modern day Weybourne. All the trains that passed through the station had their guards and drivers loyally keeping to the train and there was no evidence of any brake failures. Even if this was the case, then I think the driver and guard would have been safe to drink the tea from the NAAFI tent, for although I cannot personally vouch for the tea being drugged, the beer was fine as were the spam sandwiches and there were plenty other folk consuming the tea without falling into a stupor.

The parading and re-enactment was just part of the entertainment. In the station car park was Corporal Jones's butchers van, a few vintage cars, a swing band playing 40's music including a rendition of 'Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler', which was accompanied by the entire platoon, and a makeshift NAAFI serving spam sandwiches, tea and ale. All members of the platoon made themselves available for snapshots and were very amiable in making conversation with the general public, providing information about themselves, the museum in Thetford and a few snippets of information about The Home Guard. Their uniforms were authentic and they provided a useful bit of information about wearing this coarse fabric - the inside would have to be liberally spread with soap and then shaved to make them less irritable to the skin!

In all an interesting and entertaining day where a wealth of Dads Army quotes were liberally used and abused throughout the occasion

Pike was constantly taunted by both Mainwaring and the visitors with a liberal dowsing of You stupid boy and Dont tell them your name Pike. He did have his own lines, most notable when Hodges was giving Naploean, aka Mainwaring, some grief whereby Pike volunteered Shall I shoot him Captain Mainwaring?

Jones was the only member to not be wearing a uniform, being dressed in his butchers attire but this did not prevent plenty of utterances of Don't panic!, Permission to speak sir! and of course They don't like it up 'em!

The only time the inimitable We're doomed was heard was from the visitors on the station platform. Sergeant Wilson carried his character off wonderfully with regular touching of his beret to make sure it was in pristine place and would you mind awfully falling in.

It was with a hint of sadness leaving this scene, but the day was ending and we boarded the train back to Sheringham only to have the window rapped by each member of the platoon. Have you seen the King? they enquired. We hadnt. We had seen many people but unfotunately the King was not in evidence at all.

posing
posing

Directions

A simple circular route following clifftop paths in one direction and the beach in the other.

From Woodhill Park there is a path that runs along the cliff top, past West Runton and in front of Beeston Regis caravan site. Here it joins the official coastal footpath for the ascent up Beeston Bump. You can now follow the National Trail acorns down into Sheringham. Planning this walk right you will then be able to walk the shoreline all the way from Sheringham to Cromer. To return from Cromer follow the cliff top path to Cromer Bowls club where erosion forces the walker onto the road through to East Runton and back to where the walk starts.!

watch it napoleonThe verger
On the left watch it napoleon; On the right The verger

Pubs

NAAFI Bar, Weybourne View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Weybourne Station, Weybourne

A temporary bar set up for special events on the North Norfolk Railway. Serves tea, coffee, sandwiches and offers a variety of Wolf brewery ales

Review

Wolf beers have, in my opinion, improved over the last few years and the Golden Jackal was a worthwhile and refreshing pint of beer, straight from the barrel and even though served in a plastic pot, was something to savour.

I will volunteer Mr Mainwaring
I will volunteer Mr Mainwaring

Features

Weybourne StationView in OS Map | View in Google Map

There was never a station intended for the village of Weybourne when the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway company built the line that connected Sheringham and Holt. The location of the station is over one mile from the village and was only built at the behest of a owner of the nearby Weybourne Springs Hotel in 1900, some years after the line was constructed.

The line that passed through the station operated until 1964, 5 years beyond the Beeching cuts, but the axe finally fell with the closure of the Melton Constable to Cromer branch. The Midland and Great Northern Society was already in existence at the time, having been set up with the initial wave of line closures from the Beeching cuts. They were soon in negotiations with British Rail to reopen the branch line from Sheringham as a preserved railway. The society had originally occupied part of Weybourne station buildings as an office.

Today the station remains virtually in its original form although the roof and canopy was replaced in 2004 and more recently the gents toilet has been restored to its original condition. The signal box which now occupies space on Platform 1 came from Holt whilst the adjacent waiting room is a replica of the original building that occupied the location. The iron footbridge comes fom Stowmarket station, being aqueired during the electrification of the Norwich main line in the mid 1980's and being erected at Weybourne on 19th November 1989

The station has also been featured in many TV and film productions, arguably the most famous being the Dads Army episode of 'The Royal Train'. Other appearences occur in Hi De Hi, Love on a Branch Line, which was a four part BBC drama series, and The Lost Prince, another BBC drama production.

References
Have you seen the King
Have you seen the King

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2016-01-16

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