Bringing history alive

An interview with Rav Singh of A little History of the Sikhs about history and our maps collaboration.

Two of our illustrated walks (guides) mapped out locations inspired by the Maharajah Duleep Singh story in both London and Blo’ Norton, Norfolk. These piqued intrigue in people who were interested in walking, history, the Anglo Sikh story, architecture, and nature. Around the same time, we were contacted by Rav, who was also connecting the dots and created walking tours based (primarily) on Anglo Sikh history in London. 

A little History of the Sikhs has been growing strong for nearly six years. He wanted to enrich this history as an experience, beyond textbooks; rather a way to connect on a deeper sensory level. Rav does this through his dynamic guided tours which feature artefacts, guest speakers and a hands on approach. His aim is to bring history alive, especially for younger generations. We found a common interest in these walks and shared curiosity. Rav too digs beyond the surface; whether a statue, artefact, plaque or a sentence in a book to uncover history and illuminate it.

In 2017 we worked collaboratively, with him in London and us in Tokyo, on a Central London walking map and printed keepsake. Deep illustrated the map based on Rav’s research, we both worked on the copy and using Photoshop I designed it into a folded walking map ready for print. It serves as a way for people to keep reliving this history and even try the walks for themselves.

We recently had a virtual interview and catchup, here is what Rav said:

1) How did the ‘A little History’ walking tours start?

After teaching Sikh History as part of Panjabi language lessons at Karamsar Panjabi School, my wish was to make our class children connect and feel the history.  They can (I hope) learn our Sikh heritage and history through books and presentations, talks and lectures – but through the walks, day trips, and study visits, it was clear to me that they can ‘feel and experience’ the history.  By bringing stories of our history and heritage alive through the tours, I was hoping that future Sikh generations can appreciate our history and that I can embed a desire in them to learn more. 

Through ‘feeling’ the history, it will hopefully remain with them for the rest of their lives, as they make their way in this world.

2) Which walk do you connect with the most, and why?

My Sloane Square to South Kensington walk in the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is my personal favourite. The tour incorporates the Royal Hospital, The National Army Museum, St. Luke’s Church, and the museums in South Kensington. 

Over the last ten years, I have been fortunate to form some wonderful friendships with staff at these locations, who have supported our ‘A Little History Tours’ in all manner of ways.  My friends at these places help me to gain access to their sites, make use of their experts, and help our little initiative to bring stories and histories to life through the artefacts held in their collections.

3) What challenges have you faced with these tours?

I have begun to realise how important marketing is.  After meticulous planning to develop and plan each tour, I am always at the mercy of ‘word of mouth’ and social media to reach out to people who may be interested in attending. You also become aware of just how busy families (grandparents, parents and children together) can be!  

History is a ‘hard-sell’ and people do not know what to expect, so they do not really sign up.  But once we have had a few people attending, then through ‘word of mouth’ others have been encouraged to give it a try.  For my traditional Punjabi community attendees there are some clear obstacles and the common questions people are thinking (and do ask!) are:

  • “Do we have to walk? Really?”
  • “Can we not bring the car?”
  • “Is there free food?” 

To accommodate for every possible excuse (and we do have a high Punjabi community last minute dropout rate) we have:

  • short-walk tour options
  • pushchair and child-friendly tours
  • wheelchair friendly tours
  • provision of tour guide scripts for anyone who has hearing difficulties 
  • tours in multiple languages – English, Punjabi, Italian and French, with colleagues in the team also able to converse in German and Spanish.

I have always had a lot of moral support through various Gurdwaras and multiple WhatsApp groups, but would prefer people to give us a try and give me their honest feedback.  Many of the people that I thought would attend tours from my various networks back in 2013 are so busy running their own voluntary activities that they do not have time to join us, or even press ‘like’ on Facebook!  However, I meet so many new and interesting people on the tours, with their own stories which we share walking between locations, and ‘A little History’ family network is now beginning to form.

After nearly ten years of organic growth, we have a little more confidence in being able to ensure we can fill spaces on our tours.

4) How did you feel when you first went to Blo Norton?

I was advised by Peter Bance to visit Blo Norton and Old Buckenham during one of my Thetford tours, but could never quite manage it. 

After seeing the guide map by London Odyssey and the number of locations associated with the children of Duleep Singh in Blo Norton, we have now been back on three occasions in recent years.  I hope always to ensure we can visit the village within our Thetford itineraries. 

On my first visit, I felt I had stepped back in time to the early 1900s: The church, picturesque houses, forest, fruit trees, and village roads were only missing the Duleep Singhs…. and maybe some horses!

Memorial Plaque, Blo’ Norton

5) How did the collaboration come to be? 

It was probably September/October 2016 when I was researching additional locations in London associated with Maharani Jindan Kaur to knot together a walking tour, that I came across the London Odyssey website.  I saw the London map, and some photographs of residences associated with the Duleep Singhs, and was struck by how chic the map looked.

I attempted to replicate the style and map out some of my London walks, in particular for the upcoming ‘Vaisakhi in the Square’ event in April 2017.  I wanted to share the story behind the Havelock statue in Trafalgar Square, in particular the citation on the plinth. The citation memorialises the words of General Havelock to the Ferozepur Regiment of Sikhs during the mutiny of 1857.

I attempted to draw out a route in Deep’s style. However, in the end, I gave up and just contacted them via their contact us page, not expecting a reply! 

After a few days, I received a response and what followed was a very early morning discussion about our work to walk through Sikh History in the UK. It transpired that Deep and his family had just relocated to Tokyo!  After a few months of collaborative work between the three of us, our first self-guided walking map was ready in time for Vaisakhi 2017.  

Over the last 4 years or so, it has been great to see their adventures in Japan and Sydney, and we keep in touch from time to time on our Sikh history (and other shared) interest through our little WhatsApp working group.
The production line for our other walking tours in London is now in full swing, as we have all been home-based for most of 2020.

6) What is your guilty pleasure?

I do enjoy statistics, sports odds and a little gamble every now and again (well every week!) 

As a young man, I did end up in Las Vegas on about 5 occasions during the course of my degree studies.  In addition to my formal degree, I ended up studying many courses to comprehensively understand the various games at the Las Vegas School of Gambling. 

These ‘certificates’ I treasure now more than my postgraduate and professional qualifications – reflecting many ‘money, debt and life lessons’ learnt at the Paris, Venetian, MGM Grand, Harrah’s, Aladdin, Bellagio and Fremont Street casinos of Las Vegas. 

In the end, a good loss every now and again, means I take a break for a few days, and revert back to one of the many ‘9-5’ mundane roles I have working in front of a laptop, to recover my losses!

Stay tuned for more maps and guides in collaboration with Rav, A little History of the Sikhs. Follow his page to find out about his upcoming tours and events.

Stepping into history

A brief insight into how our guides were born.

Sometimes you feel an instant connection to a place, it becomes an obsession which keeps you up at night and excites you. Any waking moment from ‘work’ or daily life is used to research and uncover whatever details you can, and build connections. We have always been avid walkers and felt compelled to draw out our own walking maps and travel guides, inspired by our interests in history and nature. They began as a personal project for ourselves and as a living object for our children and others, so they too could immerse themselves in history. To date, we have published two maps and are currently in the process of publishing and digitising more for other locations.

Greenwich (London), UK walking map
Blo’ Norton (Norfolk), UK Prince Frederick Duleep Singh walking map
London, UK Maharanee Jind Kaur walking map
London, UK Trafalgar Square and Whitehall Sikh history walking map -in collaboration with A little History of the Sikhs

Our process, not necessarily in this order:

  1. In our reading or research, we find places we wish to explore; a growing bucket list organised by geographical areas.
  2. We explore and map out a walk with initial sketches and photographs. This can involve multiple practice walks and sketches.
  3. D. hand illustrates and brings the walk to life with his stylistic maps. He uses pencil, watercolours, and ink.
  4. S. adds descriptions and photographs from our walks and research to weave it together.
  5. Finally, S writes a longer post about the walk with detailed information. 
Blo’ Norton village, Norfolk self guided walk – published 2017
Tokyo, an overview

Blo’ Norton walking maps now available

IMG_3835Pleased to announce that our hand illustrated walking maps of Blo’ Norton village, Norfolk are now printed in a leaflet format and available (for free). The map is inspired by its famous resident and passionate conservationist, Prince Frederick Duleep Singh read more about him and the walk in our previous post-The Rajah of East Anglia

We are thrilled to see the maps in print and hope the walks will be enjoyed by many, whether their interest is in villages, churches or the intriguing Duleep Singh family history.

The map leaflets have been recently updated in January 2018 in honour of Prince Frederick Duleep Singh’s 150th birth anniversary.

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Currently available at:
St Andrew’s Church, Blo’ Norton (number 5 on the map)
South Lopham Church
Diss Library
Thetford Library
Ancient House Museum

Beehive Coffee Shop at Dutch Barn Nursery  

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We will update the list as we add more locations.
Please do get in touch if you wish to carry our maps in your venue.

Greenwich in time: A comprehensive self guided walk

Greenwich, London: a walk for all seasons.

Greenwich offers much to the visitor: stunning architecture, flanked by the Thames, a rich history, Greenwich Park, and a fantastic market and dining scene. It makes for a perfect day trip in London, with more waiting to be discovered for return visits. As a hub of space, time and maritime heritage there is much to uncover and mostly free for the enthusiast or casual visitor.

Cutty Sark and Greenwich Foot Tunnel winter morning

Ghostly Cutty Sark and Greenwich Foot Tunnel

Our home for several years, we spent many weekends walking by the river, admiring the views from the Park and discovering quaint shops, galleries and cafes.

It is hard to encompass all that Greenwich has to offer into one walk, but this goes beyond the usual circuit with some lesser known sights making it ideal for visitors and residents alike. Hand illustrated and walked many times by us with little ones and dogs in tow!

The entire walk can take approximately 2 – 2.5 hours at an average pace, with a slight incline within the Park.

Greenwich London self guided hand illustrated walk map

Greenwich, London self guided walking map

Self guided walk locations:

  1. Greenwich Station, George Smith, 1840
  2. The Point
  3. 20 Dartmouth Hill, James Glaishers, Astronomer
  4. Rangers House, Garnet 1st Viscount Wolsley
  5. Maze Hill War Memorial
  6. The Wilderness
  7. Queen Elizabeth’s Oak
  8. Royal Observatory and General James Wolfe statue
  9. ‘Knife Edge’, Henry Moore, 1976
  10. Macartney House, General James Wolfe
  11. 6 and 26 Croom’s Hill, Cecil Day-Lewis, Poet Laureate and Benjamin Wagh, NSPCC
  12. National Maritime Museum
  13. Queen’s House, Inigo Jones,  1635
  14. Old Royal Naval College
  15. The Painted Hall
  16. The Chapel
  17. Admiral Lord Nelson Statue, Trafalgar Tavern
  18. Greenwich Pier to Greenwich Foot Tunnel
  19. Cutty Sark
  20. Greenwich Market

Greenwich winter sunrise viewpoint walk

Winter sunrise over Greenwich

Additional locations

The Visitor Centre inside the Old Royal Naval College (location 14); a great resource to learn more about Greenwich history. Taking in a the view from the other side of the river in Island Gardens which is accessible via the foot tunnel. Greenwich is also an ideal base for starting your Thames Path adventure.

Our personal favorite spots in Greenwich:

Shopping: Sophia and Matt, Lush Designs
Cafes/Dining: Food stalls in Greenwich market (20), Al Pancino’s and Heap’s

Fragile history

Prince Frederick (Freddy) Duleep Singh, son of Maharajah Duleep Singh lived in his beloved Norfolk — Blo’ Norton and Old Buckenham village. He was extremely passionate about documenting and preserving historic buildings, churches and enhancing the natural environment. His meticulous records and photographs of East Anglian churches and buildings can be found in Thetford library, near the Ancient House Museum which he donated to the town.

Additionally, he was an active member and supporter of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, Norfolk, Norwich Archaeological Society (president in 1925-26), and Norfolk Archaeological Trust among others.

“He advocated repairing old landmarks to retain their character, urging local residents to ‘preserve every bit of tangible history’ that still existed in parish churches.” (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography) 

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Photo courtesy of Ron Brewer, Old Buckenham Blog

Recently we discovered the tree that Prince Frederick planted in Old Buckenham (‘The Black Prince’s Tree’) was destroyed in a storm, and later sliced and sold by a villager to raise money for a new walnut tree. Although, a new tree is beneficial for the village landscape, this clearly highlights that time continues to erode away the few remnants that remain of the Prince in the villages in which he loved and fondly helped preserve. Before the storm we were in talks to erect a plaque for the tree, and now we are desperately trying to find a slice to preserve with the plaque.

Another important remnant we have mentioned previously is ‘The Temple of the Winds’ (The Black Prince’s Folly) located in the woods near Blo’ Norton Hall, which Prince Frederick built in dedication to his father’s Sikh religion. The folly remains in pieces, and preservation is slow due to land rights.

The Prince dedicated his life to documenting and campaigning to preserve ancient buildings and churches including St. Andrew’s Church, Blo’ Norton (among others here), yet we find his folly in ruins and his tree now in pieces.

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With thanks to Ron Brewer, author of Old Buckenham Blog for bringing this to our attention.

{UPDATE} We were able to track down a couple of remaining slices and are currently in talks with local residents/organisations to preserve this alongside a plaque.

You can find our hand illustrated walking map of Blo’ Norton village, based on the Prince’s history here: The Rajah of East Anglia BloNorton highres

An ode to the Thames Path

The sleepless nights were behind us, and now exploring the outdoors needed to be much more. Alastair Humphreys prompted another awakening, simple yet powerful; just walk out your front door and keep on walking. This is the man who cycled the world, but also walked the M25.

One Sunday we did just that, Greenwich is entwined to the River Thames and its rich maritime history. So, we walked out the door, along the Thames path to the o2 centre and around the Greenwich peninsula. It wasn’t a very long or difficult walk, but we effortlessly walked out the door and found adventure. We  experienced industrial segments, plush apartments, intriguing art and nature. We laughed among ourselves for not doing this before, and it prompted us to decide to cover the entire Thames Path (at least the London segment).

At this point our daughter had just turned one; routines were set and balance was returning into our lives almost as if she had always been there. This new adventure was ours alone; when most of the waking hours are spent caring for her or talking about her; this forged a bond that had transformed as we crossed over from being a couple to parents.

I often spoke with mum friends about how my brain used to feel like mush, as if I no longer had an intelligent thought left to express. Beyond parenting, house and work commitments this created a new shared challenge for us and spurred on the plan for our monthly adventures in 2016. In a way, the ebb and flow of the Thames stirred in me a deeper bond and love at a time when change could feel so overwhelming.

For the last two segments, I walked the path alone, it was enjoyable to have time for my thoughts, walk unhurriedly and just do something for myself.

Segments completed and personal highlights:

  • Cutty Sark Greenwich to the o2 and Greenwich peninsula walk ~5km
    Highlight: The Line, riverside views
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  • Cutty Sark Greenwich to Shadwell ~6.5km
    Highlight: foot tunnel to Island Gardens and Docklands Creek
  • Thames Barrier to Cutty Sark Greenwich ~6.4km
    Highlight: The barrier (start of the path), Greenwich Ecology Park
  • Cutty Sark Greenwich to London Bridge (including Tower Bridge) ~10.5km
    Highlight: Surrey Docks Farm, free and has a lovely cafe. Rotherhithe was an architectural delight to walk through.
  • London Bridge to Wandsworth Town ~11.5km
    Highlight: Battersea Park and Church of Queen Mary
  • London Bridge to Imperial Wharf ~10.5km
    Highlight: Tate Britain and Chelsea Embankment
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  • Putney Bridge to Richmond station ~13km
    Highlight: Hammersmith Bridge, Kew, locks; the path becomes more rural now
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  • Richmond to Hampton Court Palace ~13km
    Highlight: Ham House and Garden, Teddington Lock, Hampton Court, Welcome to Surrey sign; people fishing and enjoying the river

General tips:

  • We started the path in the summer, which was refreshing, but it can feel bitterly cold by the winter so do plan accordingly.
  • Although it is a flat, urban walk; hiking/walking boots are recommended to provide much needed ankle support.
  • We used the back carrier for our little one most of the time, and sometimes the pushchair. She would often sleep, walk a little and look around. As she approached her second birthday this became harder.
  • We packed sandwiches or pasta salad for lunch, there were always benches dotted along the path often with touching tributes to loved ones. Although there are abundant cafes and shops in town centres, often very little on the path, especially as it becomes more rural.
  • The path is well sign-posted, but with construction and new developments there were often detours that skirted around the path, these were not always clear but it is hard to get lost. Additionally, as you approach the Putney and Richmond segments there can be flooding on the path, alternative routes are signposted.
  • The central London segments can get crowded and slow around the tourist hot spots, persevere as it does become more enjoyable.
  • We found this guide helpful for planning segments and learning about the history on the path. The Google maps or TFL app is also recommended, especially in planning trains

We hope to one day complete the path to the source in Oxford.

Maharanee of the Lost Empire – London walking map

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At the beginning of the year, fresh from our visit to East Anglia, we found ourselves walking through the Victorian London of the Duleep Singhs (our first walking map, in Blo’ Norton)

Maharanee Jindan Kaur, mother of HH The Maharajah Duleep Singh, and the Queen Regent of the Sikh Empire. She came to London in 1861, reunited with her son after over a decade in exile following the first Anglo-Sikh War (1845-1846).

 

After two short years, having caused quite a stir amongst Queen Victoria’s advisors, at her growing influence over The Maharajah returning to his ‘native habits’, The Maharanee passed away. Her body was temporarily interned at Kensal Green Cemetery, before authorities permitted the Maharajah to take her back to India for cremation, per Sikh rites.

A plaque dedicated to The Maharanee can be found on the wall of Dissenter’s Chapel, within the cemetery grounds. Kensal Green Cemetery is a 40 minutes walk from Holland Park, passing  colourful houses in Ladbroke Grove or alternatively it is close to Kensal Green Station.

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The Maharajah Duleep Singh left Elveden, Suffolk for fashionable Kensington and Chelsea, in 1881 for 53 Holland Park, W8. A Blue Plaque now marks his time at the house. (1) Holland Park, with its stunning Kyoto Gardens is also worth a visit and a great picnic spot.

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The Maharajah left 53 Holland Park on the night of 30 March, 1886 with his family and entourage bound for India, whilst being surveilled by Scotland Yard from Campden Hill (2). He would later be stopped in Aden, Yemen by British Authorities and prevented from proceeding to India.

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Previously, in the summer of 1861, The Maharajah arranged for his mother to reside in Abingdon House. a grand home in Kensington. The property has since undergone several changes, and today is believed to be a range of houses on Cheniston Gardens. (3)

Prior to Abingdon House, The Maharanee and her attendants in exile stayed with The Maharajah in Bayswater at No 1 Round the Corner, Lancaster Gate. (4) This part of the walk passes through Kensington Gardens and Palace.

Cremation at the time of The Maharanee’s death was illegal in England.
Her servants Utchell Singh and Kishan Singh, of Craven Terrace (5)  petitioned for her final rites to be performed per the Sikh tradition, as printed in The Times on 8 August, 1863 under the headline ‘A Case of Conscience’.

We hope you enjoy walking in the footsteps of The Maharanee and Maharajah and their intriguing tale, taking in many striking sights of London architecture, parks and gardens.

Further reading:
The Maharajah’s Box, Christy Campbell, 2001
Sovereign, Squire and Rebel, Peter Bance, 2009
Sophia Princess Suffragette, Revolutionary, Anita Anand, 2015

 

The Rajah of East Anglia

In the sleepy village of Blo’ Norton (near Thetford, Norfolk), history is bringing people and cultures together. H.H. Prince Frederick Duleep Singh (1868-1926), the third son of Maharajah Duleep Singh spent the last 20 years of his life here.

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Blo’ Norton, near Thetford (Norfolk)

Prince Frederick has been described as a country squire, and had an extensive collection of paintings and other antiquities. As well as collecting, he was a staunch champion of preserving and documenting history in buildings; he saved many churches and buildings in the area, and created a lasting impact on the natural landscape by planting trees. He also donated the building (for) and opened Ancient House Museum in Thetford.

The thought of an Indian Sikh Maharajah and his family in the UK during that time has always conjured up intrigue and fascination, especially after visiting Thetford and Elveden for the first time in January- East Anglia’s Maharajah & Saxon Kingdom.

We have had the pleasure of visiting Blo’ Norton twice, both times meeting locals who were more than happy to share their knowledge of the village and the Duleep Singh family. There is an immense amount of history here, and it makes for an excellent visit whatever your interest. With special thanks to local residents Neil, Joan, Petal and Geoffrey who put on a lovely tea and guided us through the village.

We have created this hand-drawn walk to allow you to enjoy this delightful village and soak up the history of the Duleep Singh family; enjoyed even by our energetic two year old.

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  1. The Black Prince’s Folly – ‘The Temple of the Winds’ now in ruins, designed by Prince Frederick; is believed by many as a dedication to his father’s Sikh religion. It is located in the woods near Blo’ Norton Hall. (Just as Prince Frederick fought for preservation, something must be done to preserve this folly – more on this soon!)
  2. Avenue of lime trees – planted by Prince Frederick leading up to the folly.
  3. Blo’ Norton Hall – 16th century mansion with gardens where Prince Frederick lived from 1909 until his death. The Hall is now privately owned.
  4. Grave of Prince Frederick Duleep Singh – located in the churchyard of St. Andrew’s Church.
  5. St. Andrew’s Church – a memorial tablet dedicated to the Prince, unveiled by his sisters is visible as you enter the church. There is also a black and white photo of the Prince as a young boy with unshorn hair at the far end.
  6. Memorial cross – located outside of the church gate, and designed by the Prince after WW1. A roll of honour and the cross design are located within the church.
  7. Hampton House – residence of his sister, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, occasioned by the Princesses when visiting their brother. Princesses Sophia and Catherine were staunch suffragettes.
  8. House once owned by the Prince left to his faithful servant, Herbert Hudson.
  9. Small fenced area of land bequeathed by the Prince to the Norfolk Archaeological Trust.

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There is a small cafe in the village, Dutch Barn Nursery.

All images and artwork by the authors © all rights reserved 2016

London Open House 2016: Top picks for Greenwich & Lewisham

Open House London is my favourite weekend of the year in London and taking place on 17 and 18 September. The festival is free, and a great way to explore London’s dynamic buildings and architecture. You can often access areas not usually open to the public, and many buildings provide insightful tours and presentations by architects. In some instances you will need to pre-book, but often you can show up and queue (at popular buildings).

You can find a searchable guide here, download the Open House app or pick up a free guide book from your local library.

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As Greenwich is my home, I wanted to highlight my top picks for Greenwich and Lewisham boroughs. All of my picks do not require any pre-booking (apart from one) and unlikely to have long queues.

These areas of the Naval College are usually not open to the public, the Undercroft was especially fascinating! The Painted Hall and Chapel will also be open during this weekend.

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  • Trinity Hospital : 17th century Almshouse on the River Thames, you probably pass this often if you live/visit Greenwich, and you won’t believe how it opens up inside.

  • Thames Barrier & Information Centre: During the rest of the year there is usually a small charge for the information centre and exhibition; worth a visit to see the barrier up close and understand how it protects London.thumb_IMG_9184_1024
  • The Master Shipwright’s House : This was my Open House highlight in 2014, if you visit one place in Lewisham make sure it is this incredible site.

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  • Manor House Gardens Ice House : Who wouldn’t want to explore an ice house from 1773?!
  • Sayes Court: A guided tour/walk of Sayes Court, the birthplace of the National Trust. This one will require pre-booking.

There are countless others in both boroughs; you really don’t have to wander far for history or architectural gems. Happy exploring and do let me know what you visit!

East Anglia’s Maharajah & Saxon Kingdom

January first, the first day of 2016 and the beginning of our monthly adventures.

We packed the car finally, with what felt like far too much and headed on our journey. We only made it down the road to the petrol station and realised something was wrong, after an hour or so roadside assistance declared we had an issue with the alloy. Of course this would happen on a day when most garages were closed; we made some calls and hoped tomorrow would be our day.

It was afternoon and we did the car packing routine once again; we had lost a day and a half but were still determined to make something of this first adventure.

We drove first to Thetford, a town in Norfolk just under two hours from London, to learn more about its history and inhabitants including Thomas Paine and Maharajah Duleep Singh who lived in nearby Elveden. The Maharajah bought the country estate in 1863 and contributed greatly to the development of Elveden village and forestry land. It still strikes me that a Sikh Maharajah was in East Anglia during that period.

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We visited his imposing statue on Butten Island, (Thetford town centre), and had a gander at The Ancient House museum, the house left by his son (Frederick) for the people of Thetford. Ten minutes back on the A11 is his final resting place, along with his wife and son. His estate and home are now owned by the Guinness family, parts of which are open to the public as a farmshop, restaurant and pub. This explosion of history in a sleepy part of East Anglia kindled a yearning for further reading and research into creating walks inspired by the Maharajah in London–more on that in an upcoming post.

We enjoyed my ‘just pitched’ bean chilli in front of a roaring fire and a restful night in the cozy cottage in Yoxford.

The next day we drove to Sutton Hoo in Woodbridge, the site of excavations from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom including the impressive ship burial. We woke up early, determined to beat the rain, which paid off as apart from the sheep we were able to explore the burial mounds by ourselves. It is a fascinating site and the National Trust have been sympathetic to the natural surroundings. There are a few circular walks taking in the woodlands, with stunning tall trees to admire; perfect for our dog and little one too.

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Most of our time was spent in the exhibition, although many of the original items are housed in the British Museum it provides a good overview into the Anglo-Saxons and the contents of the excavations such as the ship, horses and the famed Sutton Hoo helmet. The volunteers were incredibly friendly, and on hand to impart their knowledge. Before retreating back to our cottage, we drove through sleepy villages with names echoing their Saxon past.

The weekend wouldn’t feel complete without a visit to the coast, even in January Southwold exuded a cool, vintage seaside charm. It made for a lovely walk on the beach, the surrounding common and a meander around the quaint shops. Although, I do wonder if it would feel the same in the height of summer.

On to the next stop, Dunwich Heath and a Beach is a quiet and stunning spot on the Suffolk coast, you can easily spend the day here enjoying varying walks and stunning views. This was a great place to stop for lunch, wrap up warm and go for a long walk surrounded by unspoiled nature.

Flatford was our final stop before heading home, the name is a little lackluster, but we were intrigued to learn more about John Constable and this charming hamlet that was the inspiration for many of his paintings. Although the cottage was closed in the winter, there are many picturesque walks that follow along the river and mill. It does feel like you have stepped back in time and have been placed into one of his paintings. It is certainly worth a visit, and I look forward to revisiting again in warmer months.

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The view from John Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’

We learned that there is so much to discover in the UK at any time of year, and this was a perfect start.


12419355_10205515308583474_8233973409734164804_oSleep: We stayed at the cozy Mill Cottage in Yoxford, a beautiful two bedroom property and very well equipped for children and dogs. Great location for the coast too.

Thetford and Elveden: Free parking throughout. Well stocked farmshop and restaurant in Elveden, with an airy courtyard where little ones and dogs are welcome.

Sutton Hoo: Opening times vary by season, but the grounds (including the burial mounds) are open earlier than the main buildings so visit early to beat the crowds. There is a well equipped shop, cafe and activity area to keep little ones busy. £8.20/adult (at time of writing, free for National Trust members).

Southwold: Free parking on Ferry Road (IP18 6ND) in a lay-by, with steps going up to the beach.

Dunwich Heath: Pay and display (free for National Trust members) parking, and a seasonal tea-room.

Flatford: Free entry, but car parking charge (free for National Trust members). Seasonal opening times for cottage, shop and tea-room.

© All images/photographs and content copyright, they must not be used without written permission. All views my own.