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Things to do in Thetford, Norfolk

Thetford is an ancient market town in Norfolk, located between Norwich and London.

Thetford Forest Park and Beech Trees
Thetford Forest Park and Beech Trees © Matic - stock.adobe.com

Thetford is generally thought to have been the royal home of Boudica (Boadicea), who was Queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe.

It was an important settlement during the Iron Age and the Roman era.

Thetford is on the Little Ouse River, hence its name "thet", meaning "people" and "ford" meaning "river crossing".

It was home to the ruling monarchs in Anglo-Saxon times and the seat of the Bishop of Thetford, according to the 11th century Domesday Book.

Castle Hill, Thetford
Castle Hill, Thetford © Mark Roper - stock.adobe.com

Castle Hill is a former Norman motte although the wooden bailey has long gone.

From the summit, there are good views across the town.

The town has a Cluniac Priory which was active from the 12th century until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.

The chalk hill is said to be riddled with tunnels that were used by the monks to escape.

Dr Allan Glaisyer Minns became mayor of Thetford in 1904 and was the first black man to hold such a position in Britain.

In 1979 a metal-detecting enthusiast discovered a hoard of treasure dating back to the 4th century AD.

Sunrise in Thetford
Sunrise in Thetford © Pawel - stock.adobe.com

It included silver spoons and tea strainers, gold rings, bracelets and pendants, a gold amulet and a decorated buckle among other finds.

The Thetford Treasure is now on display in the British Museum.


Present Day Thetford

The parish of Thetford has around 22,000 residents with almost 30% being of Portuguese descent.

Thetford Forest
Thetford Forest © Adrian Swinburne - stock.adobe.com

The town centre has a good number of retail outlets including many Eastern European and Portuguese shops and cafés.

Many of the local pubs have non-professional football teams which play each other on Sundays at Castle Park.

The Bell Inn and the Priory building are both said to be haunted and have been featured on the TV series Ghosthunters.

The former Nunnery is now the headquarters for the British Trust for Ornithology.

Statue of Thomas Paine
Statue of Thomas Paine © philipbird123 - stock.adobe.com

Thomas Paine was Thetford's most famous resident. He was born in the town in 1737 and attended the local Grammar School before emigrating to America.

He was in favour of America's Independence from Great Britain during the American Revolution and he wrote an influential booklet called "Common Sense".

Thetford is known to many Dad's Army fans as the fictional location of Walmington-on-Sea; many scenes were shot in the town.


Things to do in Thetford

The town has various themed trails including the Heritage Trail, the Dad's Army Trail, the Thomas Paine Trail and the Duleep Singh Trail.

Thetford railway station
Thetford railway station © Jon Ritchie - stock.adobe.com

Visitors can climb Castle Hill near the Three Nuns Bridge and enjoy the river views from the park.

Due to its rural area with dark skies, Thetford is a good place for stargazing.

The Autumn Equinox Festival of Astronomy is held nearby.

Castle Park, Thetford
Castle Park, Thetford © Mark Roper - stock.adobe.com

Waterworld Swimming Pool is home to the local swimming team, the Thetford Dolphins.

The High Lodge Forest Centre is in the middle of Thetford Forest and organises many events including music concerts and fun trails.

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