"Britain's 0ldest Capital City..." Thetford by arturowan

Thetford Travel Guide: 30 reviews and 61 photos

Thetford - Capital that once was...

Thetford was the neolithic capital of Britain - & for a simple reason - its sandy soil is easily tilled, so ancient man was able to farm it with only rudimentary tools. Even so, stone age farmers had a precarious life, because whenever when the wind blows, as it often does, bone-chilling & unchecked from the flat coastland, the topsoil literally scatters for miles. An unfortunate effect of this natural erosion, has been that little archeological evidence remains of these early sttlers, & though a Viking style burial mound was constructed at Blood Hill, today it's as flat as its surroundings. The obvious remains of stone age man in this region, will pass many by, but it's reflected in the extent of heathland in the area, because heath is in fact, despite its protected status, not 'natural', but the fallow remnant of what was once woodland, before the ancient farmers practised 'slash & burn' agriculture. The Brecks are these remnants of once sandy cropland, now grassed over, & returning to woodland, if not managed by the full-time conservation activity throughout Norfolk. Today's Thetford would not make a convincing capitol of anywhere, but that is not a criticism, because I like this tiny town, with its obvious centre & picturesque outskirts. However, for a town, some facilities are quite pathetic, & considering it has become a British capitol of multi-culturalism, it is embarassingly undeveloped, most notably the total lack of a proper bus station. Another worthy criticism on behalf of even a British visitor, let alone a foreigner, is the misleading signposting, or just total absence of it. 0nly the 0ld Priory is properly marked to visitors, (because English heritage paid for it to be.) Everywhere else you just seem to have to guess is actually there, most notably the Ancient House Museum, which despite being in the centre of town, has no notice to say it is actually a public place, rather than a private residence. I have passed it so many times, yet it was only when researching this page that I discovered this old house is actually the town museum!

Thetford Forest...

Much as Thetford town appeals to me, its real attraction will always be its magnificent forest. There is nowhere else I know where a short trip along the riverbank, takes the traveller away from the main road flyovers, & within a matter of minutes, sets you in such a dramatically different landscape. Thetford forest is vast, extending for miles beyond the town from which it derives its name. & it's easy to become disoriented, once within, yet there are 3 main roads running through it, & the explorer is never more than a mile from a way out. Thetford Forest is home to 3 species of deer - the tiny Muntjac; (Bambi-like) Fallow; & the majestic Red, which justifies the alternative name of the area - King's Forest. It's possible to see all species in a single visit, but sometimes, the vastness of the forest swallows up its wildlife, & there are no sightings, but I suspect that the deer have seen you first, from the seclusion of its shadows. Deer do not make themselves apparent willingly - it all depends on the way the wind is blowing - if they do not scent you, then they will come within touching distance, if you stay still. However, the forest is full of all sorts of critters, & I will always think of Thetford as the place where I saw my first otter, right beneath the A11 flyover...

Thetford Rivers...

1 of the most endearing features of Thetford are the Nuns Bridges, & other foot & road bridges crossing over both rivers which flow through the middle of the settlement. 0f course, the town itself was named after the lesser of these 2 rivers - The Thet, which is actually a tributary of The Little 0use. Despite the impact these 2 tributaries make upon the layout of Thetford, they are minor waterways & no longer navigable, as they were when the area was the centre of flintnapping in Britain. The reason The Little 0use widens upon reaching Thetford, is because it once fed an indoor swimming pool, which was removed in the 1970's. There is a campaign to make the entire river area here, navigable to traffic again, but the cost is prohibitive, as it would require the installation of 4 new locks...
As befits a town where as many as half the residents are non-English, natural speakers, Thetford is twinned with 4 Continental places-of-interest;
Skawina - Poland
Hurth - Germany
Les Ulis - France
Spijkenisse - Netherlands

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Not 'tarted-up' like many UK towns; Nuns Bridges & the riverside walks, & of course, the great forest...
  • Cons:Confusingly (un)signposted; NO bus station; & in places, blighted by the A11
  • In a nutshell:An old, old English town, that happens to be exceptionally multicultural...
  • Last visit to Thetford: May 2013
  • Intro Updated Oct 16, 2014
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Reviews (23)

Comments (3)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jan 26, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    Hello, Roy! Thanks for your thorough work and excellent narration. I do appreciate your tips...Live and learn...I would have visited Thomas Paine's native city with pleasure!

    • arturowan's Profile Photo
      Jan 27, 2015 at 8:08 AM

      A lot of Polish seem to like the town - about 1in4 residents from there now, estimated...

  • EasyMalc's Profile Photo
    Oct 19, 2014 at 1:39 AM

    A good introduction to Thetford. It's a very long time since I've been there but I have some relatives who live at East Harling so perhaps I should pay them a visit and check it out again.

    • arturowan's Profile Photo
      Oct 21, 2014 at 4:16 AM

      There's a lot of building going on in the town centre, so it doesn't look too good there at present!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Jun 11, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    It's good that you travel to and around Thetford by bicycle.
    Unfortunately I have never seen Dad's Army, though I understand it went on for several years and dozens of episodes.

    • arturowan's Profile Photo
      Jun 16, 2014 at 1:30 AM

      The BBC are now re-filming the original series, obviously with different actors, though as yet I do not know if they will return to Thetford/area for location. The series is so associated in most people's minds with the original cast & this region, it will be a challenge for any sort of re-make to be a success...

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