Things to do in Normandy - village life
PUBLISHED: 10:00 05 December 2014 | UPDATED: 10:01 05 December 2014
Pete Gardner Photography
It may not have the tourist credentials of its French counterpart, but the village of Normandy still has a certain je ne sais quoi…
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine November 2014
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Jason Crow and his friend Charles Grattan know the village of Normandy like the back of their hands…
Jason, who runs the Normandy Motorcycle Company on the Guildford Road with his business partner Peter Garbutt, has been there since 1991 when they took over the business from Peter’s father. “It’s a lovely community,” he says. “There are wonderful walks and miles of footpaths and a hidden pond – I take my dog out during my lunchbreak and we love it!
“There’s also an archery club, a new village hall and The British Legion,” he continues. “There’s dancing, fish and chip suppers – you know, all kinds of typical village events.”
Charles, who was born nearby and grew up locally, remembers a quiet village with very little traffic. “There were, I think, seven shops once,” he says. “But otherwise there has been very little change, which is a bit surprising because the railway usually brings people in. It’s a bit of a time warp really. I’ve walked every inch of the village and it’s not changed as much as other places.”
“The road has got busier though,” adds Jason, pointing to his dog. “Once, about ten years ago, I walked out the front and found him sitting in the middle of the road – perfectly okay!”
Long-time local resident Clare Sherwood remembers nearby Wanborough railway station with fondness.
“My father, William Woodcock, was the last stationmaster there in the 1960’s,” she says. “So I have some very happy memories of the place.”
The story goes that the station was built in 1891 by the owner of Wanborough Manor, Algernon West, after it was found that his friend, Prime Minister Gladstone, had problems driving his coach and horses up the (then) narrow road to the manor.
Wanborough Manor was later used as a training centre for the SOE (Special Operations Executive) in the war.
Did you know…
Most people assume, understandably, that the village is named after the French town, but this is not the case. In actual fact, the village sign has a plaque attesting that the name is a corruption of ‘No Man’s Land’ – being on the borders of ‘Cleygate’ and ‘Wyke’.
Spread over quite a large area, the village is made up of several distinct hamlets – Wyke, where St Mark’s Church is situated; Willey Green with the local cricket club; Flexford; Pinewoods; and the intriguingly named Christmas Pie (apparently, the area was once owned by the Christmas family in the 1500’s so sadly nothing to do with Santa…).
If you visit the church, be sure to wander round the back and look for ‘The Pirbright Tomb’ – an astonishing and elaborate Grade II listed marble chest containing the remains of Lord Pirbright (1840-1903) and other relatives.
Something to take home...
If you love motorcycles and karaoke then this is the place for you...
Normandy Motorcycles (01483 235388) not only fixes your bike and MOT’s it, but they sell them too. So, the way to do it is to catch the train to Wanborough, find that dream bike and ride it home (just make sure you tell your better half first though...).
Karaoke your thing? At Session Music in Guildford Road (01483 811137), you’ll find what has got to be one of the largest music entertainment centres around, with audio equipment, dance mix discs, karaoke machines and more; in short, everything you need for a nice, quiet relaxed evening at home then…
We’ve mentioned the railway enough times; well, South West Trains runs a service on the Ascot to Guildford line every 30 minutes and every hour on a Sunday. On the roads, bus number 20 will take you from Aldershot to Guildford via Normandy and number 520 Stagecoach also runs a similar route. Heading there by car? Type GU2 3AR on the satnav and that will land you smack in the middle of the village. Have fun!
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