Situated at the edge of the Suffolk Coast and country Area of National Beauty, Sutton Hoo is one of Britain’s most important historical locations. Although it doesn’t have the mystique of Stonehenge, or sheer vastness of Hadrian’s Wall, Sutton Hoo is an important location, primarily for the ancient Kingdom of East Anglia, as it is the site of an Anglo-Saxon settlement and burial ground.
As a National Trust location, entrance to the estate is a small fee: from 10th May it’s £8.50 for an adult, and from 30th June it’s £13.50, but as I took the plunge and signed up for a National Trust membership for this year, entrance was free. Since our whole trip to Suffolk was for Ted to acclimatise himself to holidays, we wanted to pick the perfect spot for a walk. Dogs are allowed on site, which if we hadn’t already known, we would have realised very quickly from the army of canines lurching for the entrance.
The entrance that displayed this:
When we arrived, we realised that the exhibition hall was closed for refurbishment, but I came for the burial grounds and with map in hand, we started on our walk.
Don’t be disappointed – you won’t see magnificent feats of ancient British culture here. Most of the burial mounds have been excavated or robbed, and are not as high as they once were. The National Trust reconstructed Mound 2, the first you come across as you enter the ground, which makes a nice touch for those expecting to be blown away by Dark Ages infrastructure.
What was found in Mound 1 is probably the most interesting…
Alongside evidence of a great ship burial, archaeologists in 1939 discovered evidence of possibly one of the most recognisable artefacts in British history: the Saxon helmet. I first saw it on the front cover of a history book I had as a child and would recognise the image anywhere, but I had no idea that it was discovered in Suffolk, let alone the very place I was standing.
However, what I found much more fascinating than the actual mounds was the knowledge that I was standing on an area of great respect and significance to those ancient peoples, some of them perhaps my ancestors.
Then to add to the reflective atmosphere, we realised that the area was the home to a flight of swallows, who danced and dived and darted in the cool May morning air. Poignant really, as swallows are symbolic of resurrection and the transition from Earth to Heaven, so it seemed there was an air of spirituality about the place, an energy we modern Brits just don’t quite understand any more.
Once we had explored all there was to see in the burial ground, we decided to see the other side of the estate and walk the River Walk. Ted is still only five months old, and we didn’t want to overdo it for him, so we took him on the shorter walk, and I’m glad we did because we got to see some utterly stunning views. For not really knowing the area, I imagined walking alongside a little brook, but no, Sutton Hoo’s river walk offers brilliant views of the River Deben, and when we visited in May, a river of bluebells.
All in all, Sutton Hoo is a lovely location for a long dog walk amongst some of Britain’s prettiest landscapes and most fascinating remnants of history. Was it worth it? Without a doubt.