Whoever would have thought that we in Norfolk have our own Loch? We have meres and lakes as a rule, so what's the story behind Loch Neaton at Watton?
It begins in 1875 when the privately owned Thetford and Watton Railway Company decided to extend the track of the 'Crab and Winkle Line' across low-lying land at Neaton, a hamlet on the outskirts of Watton. In order to build up the embankment, enormous quantities of earth had to be excavated from two areas leaving them with deep depressions locally known as 'the ballast holes,' one of which filled naturally with water from the nearby River Wissey and with it the idea was born to use this new facility for recreation for the local community.
A group of businessmen got together and turned the whole area into a leisure park with boating on the lake, fishing, bowls on the green, diving boards for swimming and a concert bandstand which was used for very many years. There was an area for playing quoits and a later acquisition of land saw the addition of separate tennis courts for men and women and changing rooms for swimmers.
Loch Neaton Park was administered by a committee of townsmen, and in 1906 was conveyed to Trustees on behalf of the town for all time, for the benefit of the people of the town and the surrounding villages. Using money raised locally, its facilities were gradually improved. Fairy lights were strung from the trees, sporting events added to the calander and every Whitsun they organised a marathon race.
Time and changes in recreation and expectation have wreaked many changes since. The railway line has gone and all the park's leisure facilities have disappeared though fishing is allowed and the grounds are still used as a picnic area.
With the introduction of regular park-runs as a modern feature, a new generation of people is being introduced to the lake that became a loch in honour of the Scottish labourers who accidentally created it so long ago.