I have been reviewing the summer and thinking about the key heritage sites in Suffolk. I have put the ten locations in a broadly chronological order.
Sutton Hoo. The Anglo-Saxon ship-burial site is one of the most important archaeological sites in the UK. The spectacular finds are displayed in the British Museum.
The Abbey of St Edmund. The abbey precinct contains the ruined abbey as well as two impressive gatehouses. The present cathedral stands alongside the former abbey church.
Blythburgh church. Suffolk has numerous medieval churches but Blythburgh is probably one of the most impressive. The setting with the marshes enhances the visit.
Lavenham, Guildhall. The Guildhall at Lavenham stood at the heart of the medieval community.
Clare Castle. It is hard to beat a castle that has a (disused) railway station in its outer bailey. The castle provides good views over Clare with its splendid church.
Orford Castle. The castle at Orford provides a wonderful platform to view part of the Suffolk coast including the twentieth century Cold War remains on Orford Ness.
Ickworth. The Rotunda at Ickworth dominates the landscape and can be viewed from the Italianate gardens.
Museum of East Anglian Life. This outdoor museum in Stowmarket brings together different elements of rural life in the region. The riverside walk provides a good opportunity to spot wildlife.
East Anglia Transport Museum. This gem of a museum provides train, tram and trolleybus rides, exhibits of signs, and displays from the now dismantled Southwold railway.
Newmarket, Palace House. Newmarket is synonymous with horseracing and the exhibitions have everything from Greek pottery to modern art, physiological displays, and memorabilia. Visitors can even take an automated ride.
This is very much a personal list, and it reflects some of the key locations.
My photographs of Sutton Hoo taken in May and August of this year show how the high temperatures and low rainfall have had transformed the archaeological landscape of NT Sutton Hoo. The dry conditions are highlighting features.
The reconstructed ship burial in the exhibition centre at National Trust Sutton Hoo includes the board game that was placed alongside the body. The original pieces are now in the British Museum.
Eddie Duggan writes:
It looks like hnefatafl – but all the bits are the same colour!
The pieces are on the lines rather than in the spaces (alea evangelii may have been played on the lines, but alea evangelii was also probably intended as a symbolic use of the board [cf Wink Martindale’s “Deck of Cards”] rather than as a playable board game that was played for fun).
If it is hnefatafl, pieces would play on the squares and there would be 24 attacking pieces and 12 defenders (together with defending a king); the defending pieces’ starting position is in a symmetrical arrangement around the king while the attacking forces are grouped in sixes on each of the four sides. The aim is to get the king to safety, although which squares constitute safety is a matter of debate due to Linnaeus (the botanist) failing to make accurate notes during his tour of Lappland (Lachesis lapponica).
We are beginning to plot out our visitor journey for the Department for Transport funded project. Train passengers will travel from Liverpool Street (or Stratford) to Ipswich, then change to the Lowestoft line, alighting either at Melton or at Woodbridge.
From Melton there is a short walk over the river bridge and then up the hill to the site of Sutton Hoo. Woodbridge, opposite the burial mounds, provides access to the waterfront and other visitor facilities such as restaurants and shops.
In March 2016 the Department for Transport announced a £1 million fund to make it easier to travel by rail. Minister Claire Perry MP has spoken about the ‘great ideas’ that had been put forward.
A group of us proposed a project, ‘Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald’. This will involve using proximity prompts to encourage visitors to move from viewing the Sutton Hoo finds in the British Museum, the UK’s top tourist attraction (see here), to the find-spot in Suffolk. The app will provide information about how to get to Liverpool Street, how to buy tickets, where to change (at Ipswich), and where to alight (Woodbridge or Melton). It will then have further details of where to buy food and coffee, and how to walk (or find other transport) from the station.
Minister Claire Perry MP announced the winners yesterday (“Rail tourism winners announced“, 25 May 2016). The competition “offers grants to rail operators for innovative ideas and trials and is aimed particularly at heritage railways and community rail partnerships. It hopes to encourage more tourists and make it easier to explore the UK by rail.”
‘Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald’ was one of the 17 winners and the team members are looking forward to delivering the project over the next year.
Claire Perry MP commented: “We want to show the best of British to our visitors and Heritage and Community Railways are part of that package. I am delighted that this project is one of 17 national winners across Britain. I look forward to seeing the scheme develop, providing another great reason to visit Suffolk.”