Summer allows for the opportunity to sample a number of new hobbies and activities you might not otherwise consider, and with the lovely weather of late, why not try something that gets you out in the sunshine amidst the beautiful Suffolk countryside? Inspiration can come from the strangest of places, including a BBC4 television series called Detectorists.
Created, starring and penned by Mackenzie Crook, of Pirates of the Caribbean fame, the series first aired in 2014 and went on to win a Bafta for best-scripted comedy. Following the antics of best friends Andy (Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones), the show offers a glance into the life of a detectorist with the stunning backdrop of the Suffolk countryside.
The show takes place in the fictional setting of Danebury which cleverly takes its name from an archaeological site in Hampshire which dates back to the Iron Age. Despite Danebury being a village "in" Essex, Suffolk's own Orford and Framlingham were used as filming locations, perhaps most notably the pubs.
The Castle Inn in Framlingham is called the Two Brewers in the show, however it is only used for the exterior shots as the inside is filmed in The Crown which is just down the road in the village of Great Glemham. Framlingham College is used as the local university, and the town square is also featured as it houses the shop Crystal Encounters, in the real life location of the Panorama Gift Shop. The Co-op also makes an appearance in the second season as well as neighbouring fields and farms. The White Horse pub featured as the haunt of the rival detectorists club, the Antiqui-Searchers, but unfortunately this pub has since closed down. St Michael’s Room, a hall behind St Michael’s Church is the official meeting place of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club.
There are several other locations used such as Wantisden and Bentwaters Airfields - Mecca Bingo in Ipswich is even featured for a scene! In the show’s second series Aldham St Mary, one of 38 round tower churches in Suffolk, is used as a prominent filming location. The village of Aldham lies eight miles west of Ipswich and sits in absolutely stunning countryside. Filmed over summer months, there is a beautiful golden sheen to the endless green fields and wide skies showing off the best Suffolk has to offer.
In Suffolk there have been archaeological finds from the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age and include artefacts such as swords, spearheads, arrows and axes as well as decorative equipment, coins and jewellery. Many Bronze Age discoveries have been found in the west of the county around Mildenhall and Lakenheath. There is an Anglo Saxon Village in West Stow which has been recreated on the grounds of the original village where you can see what life would have been like for our ancestors.
In the show there are several references to Sutton Hoo as the characters search themselves for the lost burial site of King Sexred of the East Saxons as Andy and Lance discuss how a Saxon hoard would be the “holy grail” of metal detecting. There several metal detecting clubs in Suffolk where you pop along to a meeting to discover local finds and good spots to visit. With potential coins and other artefacts to find, as well as the perhaps less exciting buttons, pull-tabs and “canslaw” - “it’s like coleslaw but made out of drinking cans” - metal detecting is an interactive way to get involved with local history outside of museums. Suitable for all ages, Crook himself has described the pastime as “magical. It’s time travel - or the closest you can get to time travel”.
There are a lot of codes to follow in order before you set out in quest of treasure most importantly acquiring permission from landowners before commencing any detecting in order to avoid trespassing.
You can visit the series’ filming locations or make a pub crawl of the numerous pubs featured in the show, or why not even try out the hobby for yourself? Given the rich history of Suffolk with Saxon and Roman settlements, who knows what you might unearth?
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