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A Warrior's Grave at Sutton Hoo

Mystery surrounds you on this atmospheric walk by the famous site of a pagan burial ground.

Distance 7 miles (11.3km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 262ft (80m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Field-edge and riverside paths, farm lanes, short section of busy road, 3 stiles

Landscape Farmland, woodland and River Deben

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 197 Ipswich, Felixstowe & Harwich

Start/finish TM 289492

Dog friendliness On lead on farmland and National Trust land (not allowed near burial mounds)

Parking National Trust car park - included in entry price for exhibition, or pay-and-display when exhibition closed

Public toilets At National Trust visitor centre - walkers' toilets behind building are open when visitor centre is closed

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1 Take the signposted blue trail from the National Trust visitor centre, descending towards the river on a gravel track. Turn left opposite the entrance to Little Haugh and turn right by a map of the Sutton Hoo Estate. The path narrows and turns left alongside a fence on its way to the river. Keep left around a meadow then cross a footbridge and climb the steps to the riverbank with Woodbridge visible on the opposite bank.

2 Turn left and walk along the river bank. The path is overgrown in places and the plank bridges can be slippery in wet weather but the views are superb. After 400yds (366m), climb the steps to your left to leave the river behind and turn left around a turf field. Keep to the edge of the field as it swings right and climbs between woodland to the left and a reservoir to the right.

3 Turn right at the top of a rise to follow a bridleway along the field edge with Deben Wood to your left. At the end of the wood, the path swings half-left across a field then passes through a hedge on to a lane. You could turn left here for a short cut, picking up the walk in 300yds (274m) at Point 6.

4 Keep straight ahead for ¾ mile (1.2km), crossing the drive to Haddon Hall. Bear right around farm buildings then left on a footpath beside a brick wall. You pass a pair of cannon on the lawn of Methersgate Hall and continue ahead with the River Deben opening out in front of you. Cross a stile and turn left across a field then cross another stile and turn right along a lane. Stay on this lane for 1 mile (1.6km) as it bends left pass Cliff Farm.

5 Turn left at a three-finger signpost along a field-edge track, passing an embankment on the right. Keep to the public bridleway as it swings left around an area of woodland. At the end of the woodland, keep straight ahead between fields and continue as the path becomes a broad grass track, passing some cottages to reach a minor lane.

6 Turn right and stay on this lane for about 1 mile (1.6km) to the main road (B1083). Turn left and walk carefully along the verge for 400yds (366m). Turn left opposite the road junction past a National Trust sign. When you see the burial mounds to your left-hand side, turn right to return to the visitor centre on a National Trust permissive path.

The discovery of an Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo in 1939 shed new light on the 'Dark Ages' and opened up a whole new chapter of English history. It all came about when Edith May Pretty, a widow with a keen interest in spiritualism, reported seeing visions of ghostly warriors dancing on the burial mounds near her home. She called in a local archaeologist, Basil Brown, to investigate and before long he had made his extraordinary discovery. Many of the graves had been desecrated by robbers but in one of the mounds he found the remains of a 90ft (27m) wooden ship with a burial chamber inside. The timber had rotted, leaving nothing but rusty iron rivets and a dark stain in the sand but the treasures that had survived included Byzantine silver, gold buckles and a bejewelled helmet, sword and shield. The only thing missing was a body, presumably decomposed.

An inquest awarded the treasure to Mrs Pretty and she donated it to the British Museum, the single most generous gift ever received from a living donor. Archaeologists have been puzzling ever since over the identity of the missing man. Although weapon burials were not uncommon, the riches found at Sutton Hoo have led most experts to conclude that this was the burial ground of the early East Anglian kings, and that the burial chamber in the ship was that of King Raedwald, leader of the Wuffinga dynasty, who died around ad 625.

Until recently you could view the treasure in London and visit the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo. In 2002, however, the National Trust opened an exhibition on the site with replicas of many of the items and some of the original treasures on display. There is a sword in its wooden scabbard, the sword-belt fittings exquisitely patterned in gold and red garnet from India. There's an ornamental shield, covered in golden dragons and eagles, and a warrior's helmet with designs of horsemen in wrought copper and bronze. The artists making the replicas were full of admiration for the skills of their Anglo-Saxon ancestors. 'They were highly sophisticated people with an appreciation of art and culture. Some of these objects are extremely difficult to make even today,' says Kate Sussams, National Trust manager at Sutton Hoo.

Most people agree that the new exhibition has made Sutton Hoo easier to understand. If, however, you prefer your lumps in the ground without any explanation, come here at dawn or on a misty morning in winter when the place still has an air of mystery about it and when you just might see ghostly figures dancing on the graves.

Where to eat and drink

The only option on this walk is the restaurant at the National Trust visitor centre at Sutton Hoo. It is open daily in the summer and on winter weekends, offering a menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, local sausages, 'Anglo-Saxon' bread, tea and cakes. T

What to look for

If you think some of the fields around here look like the pristine fairways of golf courses, you would be right. Turf is grown at Sutton Hoo especially for sports pitches, and exported to golf courses and cricket grounds in much drier countries such as Saudi Arabia.

While you're there

It would be a pity not to visit the National Trust exhibition and treasury, which contains some of the original finds from Sutton Hoo. It is open daily in summer and on winter weekends, though times may vary throughout the year. From here, a specially signed pathway leads around the burial grounds. At weekends and during the summer holidays, members of the Sutton Hoo Society give fascinating guided tours of the site with the opportunity to climb on the burial mounds.

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