A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Heritage Open Day (2)

On Sunday last weekend we enjoyed free admission to Orford Castle which is managed by English Heritage. Only the keep remains of the original 12th century fortress built by Henry II - but it's impressively intact.

We walked north from Orford Quay along the western bank of the Alde and Ore river - the river with 2 names. It was very peaceful, with only the terns and the occasional sailing boat for company. Across the river lay Orford Ness, a National Nature Reserve and the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe. It was a secret military test site until the mid-1980s - when the National Trust bought it from the Ministry of Defence. It's a wild and fascinating 10 mile coastal strip formed of rivers, mud flats, lagoons, saltmarsh, grass, shingle and abandoned wartime buildings. Someone once called it "half wilderness, half military junkyard".

Later we explored another National Trust site nearby: the mounds at Sutton Hoo, the burial ground of Anglo-Saxon kings. The most heralded excavation here in 1939 (Mound 1) revealed a ship burial site containing many priceless treasures - including the famous iron helmet which probably belonged to King Raedwald of East Anglia. Many of these beautifully crafted artefacts are housed in the British Museum.

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