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Posts Tagged ‘Sutton Hoo’

Wednesday and we’re flashing the nash again at Sutton Hoo, famed boat burial ground of Anglo-Saxon royalty.  The National Trust have done a great job in telling the tale in the Exhibition Hall with its narrative boards and displays of original artefacts and – especially – the high quality replicas large and small.  It was good to hear a recording of the story of how the 1939 excavation started in the rich East Anglian burr of the local man who recognised what a big deal it all was.

As a librarian, i just thought: Yes!

King Raedwald’s fully kitted out burial chamber in the hull of a ship is an experience, while the spectacular polished replica of the iconic helmet – Rick Kirby’s giant working of it hangs over the entrance to the Hall – is a wondrous piece of art to behold, doubly so when one of the NT volunteers explains what’s going on with the symbols and decorations in all their intricacy.  The original – made with iron, bronze, tin, gold and silver – is in the British Museum.

Note the tactical placing of the fur to prevent plucking of the harp. Damn.

I was much taken by the Warrior Bards section of the exhibit, recognising their importance in the creation and maintenance of a shared identity among a population.  “They sang of ancestors and the fates of men, of dragon-slayers and family feuds, of wars and adventures … The stories of these people, not written down, were told by kings and minstrels to the music of the harp.”  Not for the first time, guilt at not having read Beowulf (the Seamus Heaney translation came in the post this morning; so far so good with the good intentions – whether it gets read is another matter).

At school they told us these were the Dark Ages.
We walked the parched lands of the burial grounds under the sun, and took some respite in the trees.

And so to Dunwich Heath and Beach.  Failed to negotiate the new National Trust parking procedures involving sticking your card in a machine; were assured by helpful volunteers we were not the first and would not be the last.  Such a welcome big breeze off the sea, but in spots of such severity as to require the donning and shedding of items of clothing.  Fascinating to see the battle for ground cover, the incursions of ferns among the heather (or vice versa? is it perpetual?)

Blown away on the beach too, but context is all.  The sea may have been brown, but it was still the sea.  And we live in Milton Keynes; it may be just another crap photo of the sea to you, but).  For a while we were the only souls in sight.  With Sizewell as distant backdrop lending a science fiction end of the world edge.

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