There’s no better place than Dunwich Beach to sit and contemplate the passing of time and to write a poem, which is exactly what the children of Fressingfield School did today.
The day started with either a tour around Dunwich with Sister Luke, or a visit to the lovely Dunwich Museum.
Those with – the bare-footed – Sister Luke were treated to an historical tour of what remains of ancient Dunwich. A walk along St James’ Street – once the great thoroughfare into the busy port – lead to a short walk through the woods along the clifftop path to the back of Greyfriars Monastery. We stopped to learn about the plant Alexander, which was imported by the Romans because it tastes a bit like asparagus and the legionnaires were missing their vegetables, and which now grows rampantly throughout the village, and to look at the last remaining grave of All Saints’ Church, which fell into the sea about 100 years ago.
In Greyfriars, we learnt about the merchants, wool-traders, ship-builders and other tradespeople that used to live in Dunwich. We also learnt that the town was a stopping off point for pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. For the walk back to the museum, we marched, like real pilgrims, ringing bells and singing and banging sticks to let people know our purpose.
In the museum, Jane Hamilton, with the help of a fantastic model, told us about the great port of Dunwich and the storm of 1286 that destroyed the harbour and started the long decline of the town’s fortunes. Meanwhile, the children upstairs were able to handle some of the finds that had been found on Dunwich Beach over the years, including spurs, sheep bells, musket balls, keys and even the leg bone of a woolly mammoth. Sarah the Archaeologist was on hand to answer the children’s many questions.
As the weather was glorious, lunch was had on the pebbles of Dunwich Beach and then we split again into groups for the afternoon’s workshops. Some children started with a sketching activity: using viewfinders, they were able to select a view to sketch in the homemade books we had brought with us for the occasion. Others were on a slow, noticing walk along the tide mark to gather small items that had been washed up by the sea which they stuck onto pieces of card to create beautiful collections. At the same time, a third group were writing poems based on their walks along the beach, which will be written up when we get back to school.
All in all, we had a fantastic day. The staff at the museum and all those who came with us were really impressed by the children’s behaviour and the excellent questions they asked.
I would like to thank all those that came with us; we hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did.