If there’s something I cherish from my childhood travels, it’s all the summers spent in Thetford, a small town in East Anglia, where most of my mum’s side of the family lives. My little brother and I spent many summers there with my grandmother visiting her sister Ingrid, her husband Ced and their many cats in their cozy house in Thetford.
But the last two summers I haven’t had time to go. The last time I saw the English side of my family was in the summer of 2015 – and quite frankly, it had been to long. That’s why, when Amanda and I went to Cardiff this December to attend the annual Theoretical Archaeology Group conference, we decided to take a trip out to Thetford after the conference. We arrived in the evening of December 20th and spent the next two days relaxing with my family and exploring Thetford and the surrounding villages and churces.
After a nice long sleep, which we both really needed after a looooong journey through the UK, Amanda and I went out to see some of Thetford.
Thetford is a market town in Norfolk, located halfway between Norwich and Cambridge, and just south of the famous Thetford Forest, where I’ve also spent many summer days mountain biking!
I’ve been to Thetford countless times, but I never get tired of the town. There’s a lot to see and do there, and I could easily spend weeks just exploring. Since Amanda was going back to Denmark a day earlier than me, I decided to show her some of my favourite places in town in the one day we had there together. My number one favourite place is actually Thetford Forest, but unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit it this time around.
We first walked into the center of Thetford, past the Saint Mary’s Catholic Church. This gem of a church was abandoned many years ago, and has actually been for sale for years, but has yet to be sold. It’s illegal to go into the grounds of the church, although my brother and I actually did that a few years back – but that was before the ‘no trespassing’ signs came up (I promise).
We then walked to Thetford Priory, the remains of a medieval Cluniac monastic house, which founded in 1130 and was once one of the most important monasteries in East Anglia. Despite being in ruins, the place is amazingly well preserved.
I found it extremely interesting how all the buildings were built of flint, which I also noticed that a lot of the houses in Thetford are built of, as well as most churches around Norfolk. It’s not a building material that I’ve seen in any other countries, but I find it very beautiful. I LOVE flint (mainly because of my obsession with the Stone Age), so if I ever get to build my own house, you bet it will have a surface of flint!
The priory is located right next to the heart of Thetford with the main church and cozy walking streets with highstreet shops, cafés and restaurants on both sides. We walked through there and spent quite a while shopping in all of Thetford’s brilliant charity shops. It was a challenge to fit all of our new (old) clothes into our carry-on luggage, but we somehow managed! Also, most of the stuff cost just 2 pounds!! I’m definitely going charity shopping in England again, that’s for sure!
Next up was Castle Hill, a place I’d seen many years before, but I’d never actually been up it! Castle Hill is the remains of a medieval motte-and-bailey castle, which has been built up and destroyed a few times. The first castle was built in the 11th century, a new one was then built in the 12th century, but was later destroyed, although parts of it remains intact to this day.
Just recently, a staircase has been built to help visitors climb to the top of it. The view from up there is quite great overlooking all of Thetford and its countryside surroundings.
We decided to walk back into the center of Thetford to follow Ced’s advice and go to Wetherspoon for lunch. They have such great offers there, and I got a vegetarian burger with fries and a drink for just 5 pounds! Amanda got chili con carne with a drink for just over 7 pounds, which is also extremely cheap. We spent quite a while there, enjoying eating proper food again after living off 1 pound sandwiches during our time in Cardiff!
On the way back home, we walked through Nun’s Bridges over a lovely river with swans, geese and ducks. I used to love spending my time feeding them with my brother in the summer. It’s such a wonderful place with great memories.
The next day, we said goodbye to Amanda early in the morning, and then spent the day exploring small villages in the area, relaxing and visiting more family!
Having just discovered that most of Thetford is built of flint, I asked Ingrid and Ced if they knew why. They told me about nearby Brandon, where the Grime’s Graves flint mines are located as well as a pub named Flintknappers. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – there was actual flintknapping and flint mines right near Thetford!
They decided to surprise me and take me on a trip to Brandon, a small town that is actually most known for its old flint tradition, which goes all the way back to the Stone Age. Unfortunately, the flint mines aren’t open in winter time, so I will have to come back for those in the summer! But it was great to see the Flintknappers pub and some of the many houses in Brandon that are built of flint.
Afterwards, they took me on a little church tour of the nearby area. We first went to Santon Downham, a tiny village located in the middle of Thetford Forest. It’s very idyllic and looked like something out of a faiytale. Especially the tiny church. It’s very quaint and small, and built entirely of flint.
Next up was the church of Mundford, St. Leonards Church, which is a much larger church, also built of flint as well as chequered brick.
In Mundford, we went house exploring again, and I found the most perfect villa, built of flint of course. That house could very well be my dream house, if only it was located in the mountains!
When we got back home to Thetford, we had some chips and sausages (vegetarian for me) at the local fish and chips store, before relaxing for a few hours at home. It was the first time in a long time that I had been so relaxed. I tried my hardest not to worry about upcoming exams and just enjoy lying flat on a sofa watching tv – something I haven’t done for 1,5 years!
In the evening, Ingrid’s and Ced’s daughter Heidi came over and dropped her 12-year-old son Alex off, and after dinner we all went to visit Ingrid’s and Ced’s son Jason, his fiancé Kim and her daughter Ella. It was my first time meeting Kim and Ella, but we all got along very well. I’m very excited for their wedding in August!
After spending a few hours over at Kim’s, we headed back home, where we met up with Heidi again, who had now brought her daughter Georgina over as well. I can’t believe how much Alex and Georgina have grown since I last saw them in July 2015.
It was lovely to see them all again, but it had definitely been too long, and I will try to make sure that I get to see them more often from now on.
My flight to Denmark to go back home for Christmas was at 6.50 AM in the morning, and I had to catch a bus to Stansted Airport from Thetford already at 11.30 PM the night before. I was very sad to say goodbye to everyone, but thankfully, I know it won’t be long before I see them all again.
I really appreciate having such a beautiful family in England, and I especially want to thank Ingrid and Ced for welcoming both me and Amanda for some cozy Christmas times together.