When the Watton to Swaffham railway line was constructed in 1875 about a mile of its length had to be built up over low lying land at Neaton, then a hamlet adjoining the town. To form the embank ment upon which the track was to be laid vast quantities of earth had to be excavated and this resulted in two holes of two to three acres being formed. The one nearer the town, on the west side of the line remained dry. The further one, on the east of the line adjoined the river Wissey and conse quently soon filled with water. Following continuous frost during the severe winter of 1891 this sheet of water, known as the "Ballast Holes" was frozen to a great depth and a party of local skating en thusiasts decided to test its strength.
Having reached the railway bridge over the Dereham Road they climbed the embankment to take a short cut down the line. Included in the party was the local barber, familiarly known to all "Wattonians" as "Teddy" Toombs.
Having enjoyed hours of invigorating sport they returned by the same route, discussing their enjoyment and regretting that there was not such an expanse of ice nearer the town. As they passed the dry hole Teddy remarked what an excellent skating arena it would make if only it could be flood ed. His remark brought shrieks of laughter from his friends who said, "Where is the water coming from, and having got it, how could you keep it in"? You must be mad! These and other similar remarks and questions followed — no one ever dreaming that in a short period Teddy, with the help of his scoffers, would be creating Loch Neaton — but this is what happened.
After giving the idea more thought, he realised what a wonderful opportunity this spot offered for conversion into a pleasure resort. His imagination knew no bounds as he envisaged what could be achieved by plenty of hard work. Providing the hole could be made to retain water over a long period it would provide a skating arena in severe weather, a swimming pool and boating lake in summer, while fish could be introduced to provide sport for anglers.
Lower path and Boating Lake at Loch Neaton 1924
The area surrounding the hole could be landscaped with trees and paths and there was sufficient room on the west side for a bowling green to be laid. The vital question was, where would the money come from to carry out such an ambitious project? Having talked over the idea with a few townsmen, George Durrant, a grocer and draper and Samuel Short, a baker, were convinced that it was an excellent suggestion and immediately offered financial assistance.
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