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The Great Cley Floods: Chapter 14

Jean Day concludes her remarkable time-shift novel involving two great floods which, a century apart, devastated the village of Cley in Norfolk.

To read the story from the beginning please click on The Great Cley Floods in the menu on this page.

June 10th , 2006

Hello, Rebecca. Itís been a long time since I came to see your grave and give you an update on my life. But I had to come today because I have the most exciting news. But first of all, I must bring you up to date with my situation.

My beloved Martin has died. He was 81. He had been ill for some time with cancer and had lost his short-term memory. He made up for that by regaling us over and over with his stories of his time as a prisoner of war. He had such a memorable funeral. All the grandchildren took part, one playing the violin, another reciting a poem she had written for him.

My life seems very empty without him.

I too am getting on. Who knows if I will ever make this trip to Cley again to visit you. My mind is still good though and I garden and bake bread and cakes. Do you remember how you looked so disparagingly at my rough calloused hands? Those hands are no better than when you saw them, but they have even more reason to look so worn. My house has a four-acre garden and I am the only one who maintains it, though the boys do help with the mowing occasionally when they come home.

My children are all grown and they have grown children of their own, though as yet I have no grandchildren. I hope I will have that thrill before I die. I remember how much you longed for grandchildren when we met all those years ago. That is why I have come to see you today. To tell you that your genes have not only survived but will continue to do so.

I must start this story properly or you wonít understand what I am on about. My son John has a daughter, Emily, and she is now a student at Gresham School. I think you called it Holt Free Grammar School when I was with you, but it is the same place. Are you surprised that they have girls there now? It only happened recently Ė within the last 10 years or so. My granddaughter Emily is very good at using computers. She likes to hear me telling stories of my family history and offered to help me trace ancestors. I discovered that you are my Great great grandmother. Can you believe that?

When your daughter Rachel finally married Richard Banyer and moved with him to Somerset, she had a daughter whom she called Sarah. Sarah in her turn married and had a daughter called Elizabeth. And Elizabeth had Hannah who was my mother. Isnít it interesting how the female members of your family named your daughters after strong-willed women in he Bible? My mother didnít know much about her ancestry so we have only just discovered this link. Did you not feel a tie between us when we met in 1852? I know I did. I felt that we were joined in some way. I continued to search for evidence of a link, and I am delighted to have finally found it. All that happened now eems to make sense.

Two of my sons have, both of them doctors, have settled in the West Country. One of them was the baby I was expecting when you took me into your house on the night of the flood. My other children live and work in London, but they also have homes in Norfolk so I see quite a lot of them.

Granddaughter Emily not only traced my ancestry. She found out lots more about the village of Cley in the days when you were living there. If you saw it today you would have no difficulty in recognizing it. The houses in High Street look much the same. Your home, Heron House, still stand proudly. The big change is that Cley is now a tourist and holiday village. There are lots of Bed and Breakfast establishments, including the Mill. Thereís a huge bird sanctuary on the marshes. People come from all parts the country to see the wildfowl.

Of course there are ome new houses, especially along Fairstead and Church Lane. Local governance required that they be built in a style which is in keeping with Cleyís old buildings. There still is no street lighting, and the roads are as narrow and easily clogged as ever they were. The Bastardsí bakery is an art shop, and the Forge a delicatessen. The public house that used to be across from where we live, was a draper and grocer in my time, but now is a pottery shop.

But your village is still very much alive and buzzing. There are still occasional floods from the sea, nut a flood wall has been built around the village so the danger has been reduced. The Glaven river has been re-routed. I am sure you would not have approved of that. Martin and I certainly didnít.

Philip Day, the young man who rescued me after I had spent the night in your home, now owns the house in which Martin and I lived. Isnít that a coincidence?

Well Great-Great Grandma Rebecca, I must be going. Sitting on this damp ground is not good for my arthritis. I had to come and tell you that we are related. I thought you should hear it first hand. Perhaps it wonít be long before you are taking me by the hand when I reach wherever you are now.


An Historical Atlas of Norfolk, Peter Wade-Martins, Norfolk Museums Service, 1994, p78,137,178
A Village Shop, by Fred Starr, The Old Butcherís Bookshop, Cley, 1979, p.36-41.
Cley, by Peter Brooks, Poppyland Publishing, reprinted 1998.
East Anglia, Paul Jennings, Gordon Fraser Publishers, London, 1986.p 41.
East Anglia, Hammond Innes. Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1986 p 79-81.
Norfolk, A Shell Guide, Faber and Faber Ltd. London, p 29, by Wilhelmine Harrod and Rev. C.L.S. Linnell.
North Norfolk, Illustrated Guide Books, Ward Lock and Cop, p. 97.
The 1953 Floods at Cley, Salthouse and Blakeney, by Buttercup Joe, Buttercup Publishing, 1992.
The 53 Floods, by Godfrey Sayers, Glaven Valley Newsletter, January 2003.
The Glaven Ports, by Jonathan Hooton, Published by Blakeney Historical Group, reprinted 1997.
Other issues of Glaven Valley Newsletter used: March, 2006, April 2006.
Internet site for the Eastern Daily Press.
Historical Directories: Pigotts Directory of Norfolk, 1839
Post Office Directory of Cambridge, Norfolk, Essex and Suffolk, 1869.


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