Town clerk Cherry bids farewell

When former Sheringham Secondary Modern School student Cherry Ashton took a job at the town council offices in Church Street 23 years ago, she was following a family tradition stretching back to 1945, when her father James began a 30-year stint as town clerk.

When former Sheringham Secondary Modern School student Cherry Ashton took a job at the town council offices in Church Street 23 years ago, she was following a family tradition stretching back to 1945, when her father James began a 30-year stint as town clerk.

And, as her retirement was marked with a Christmas get-together and presentation last week, Cherry reflected on her own time as town clerk, when she has seen 6 mayors and more than 60 councillors come and go . . .

Born in Sheringham in 1950, Cherry worked at a local estate agents after leaving school, before setting off to travel around Europe with friends.

She then took a job as a shop assistant while training as a secretary and, following a stint as a temp at Norwich, took time out from work to bring up daughter Libby.


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Cherry returned to live at Sheringham after her marriage broke down in 1984 and juggled various part-time jobs before being offered the role of clerical assistant at the town council offices in 1986.

She was made town clerk in 1996, a job which saw her line manage the council's 3 other employees, prepare agendas for meetings, take minutes, do the accounts and carry out countless other duties, ranging from keeping cemetery records and handling requests for memorials, to dealing with planning applications and helping local people research their family histories.

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"We also have a lot of telephone enquiries," Cherry said. "I have had people ring to ask about the tide times and, recently, I even had someone phone up to ask what day the Christmas lights were turned on in 1986!"

As town clerk, Cherry has often had to deal with people during difficult times in their lives, but she too has had her fair share of problems, losing her older sister Noreen to a brain tumour at the age of just 40 and, following a routine mammogram in 2006, being diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It was difficult," she said. "But, somehow, I knew I would be alright."

A year after undergoing a radical mastectomy, Cherry had breast reconstruction surgery, an operation which, she says, made her feel "normal" again.

In retirement, Cherry plans to devote more time to her passions of gardening, reading, sewing, yoga, walking and Pilates.

Sheringham mayor Noel Gant said she would be missed by the council, and by the town.

"To my mind, Cherry was the ideal mayor's clerk and I couldn't have done my job without her," he added. "And, as far as Sheringham is concerned, she had an important job which she did in an exemplary manner."

The low down

What is the best thing about your job?

The day to day challenges - every day is different. I think I will miss that as it certainly helps keep the brain active!

And the worst?

The job of town clerk can be quite a stressful one and, at times, the pressure of work can leave you not knowing which way to turn.

What's your favourite Norfolk building?

Blickling Hall, for its lovely setting, its impressive, yet friendly, appearance and the generally nice feel it has about it.

What's the one thing you would change about north Norfolk?

I don't think I would change anything; it's a lovely part of the world and I feel very lucky to live here.

What's the one thing you would change about yourself?

I can be quite a quiet person, so I'd be a little bit more outgoing.

Have you ever done anything outrageous?

It's more adventurous than outrageous, but I went to Papua New Guinea in 2003 as part of a round-the-world trip. It was pretty hair-raising as it was quite a dangerous place. I was followed and almost mugged and we had to hire a minder and a driver to travel anywhere.

What is your proudest moment?

Having my daughter, she's a lovely girl and she has been a great support to me.

And your greatest achievement?

Following in my father's footsteps and becoming Sheringham's town clerk - it's been a real privilege.

Whom do you most admire?

My mother. My father was so involved in his work that she was the centre of everything in our family.

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

Favourite book: anything by Anne Tyler or Joanne Harris; favourite film: Close Encounters of the Third Kind and, on TV, I love period dramas.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a good mother and a good friend.

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