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10 ways to… get a free family fix of history in Norfolk and Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 18:21 07 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:09 08 September 2017

The Wymondham Vintage Fair. Picture: Ian Burt

The Wymondham Vintage Fair. Picture: Ian Burt

Hundreds of fascinating places across East Anglia will be opening for free this weekend for Heritage Open Days. Here’s how to see knights in armour, birds of prey, a lido, hedgehogs and a dandy horse.

1 Step back in time to Medieval Thetford where a Norman knight will be roaming Castle Park and swordfighters will show off their skills, and their chain mail, in King’s House Gardens. See birds of prey at Thetford Priory and make medieval food, find out about medieval medicine, touch real medieval objects and enjoy medieval storytelling at Ancient House. Saturday 10am-3pm; drop-in.

2 A Hedgehog Wildlife Bonanza at Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds, includes a nature trail and plenty of prickly facts and figures from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Saturday and Sunday, 10.30am-5pm.

3 Hunt history through the streets of Norwich on a route taking in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, the Maddermarket Theatre, Hungate, and Norwich Cathedral. Pick up your trail map at the Forum and follow it to meet costumed characters and hear their stories. Saturday 10am-4pm; drop-in.

4 Dress as a merchant adventurer and snap your look for posterity. A dressing-up box and photo booth are among the fun at Quay Place, St-Mary-at-the-Quay, Key Street, Ipswich. Also, find out about the town’s rope walks and visit the play table to join in stories of the wharfs and quays of the waterfront. Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm.

5 The longest lido in East Anglia is one of three Ipswich swimming pools taking part in Heritage Open Days. Modernist Broomhill Swimming Pool has been closed for 15 years but could reopen next year. For a preview of the renovation project, visit on Saturday or Sunday, 10am-4pm.

The elegant Victorian public baths on Fore Street, Ipswich, ranked as one of the 20 best working historical baths in the country, will also be open, 11am-4pm on Sunday. Crown Pools, Ipswich, will be open Saturday and Sunday, 7.45am-4pm.

6 Celebrate the 200th anniversary of the earliest form of bicycle - the Dandy Horse of 1817. Vintage bicycles will be converging on Whitwell Station, on the Marriot’s Way path, near Reepham. See the bikes, bring your own, vintage or modern, and enjoy traditional entertainment and activities. Sunday 10am-4pm; drop-in.

7 It’s a rather macabre family outing – but a rare chance to see Simon of Sudbury’s head. Unfortunate Simon was the Archbishop if Canterbury in 1381, and decapitated, at the Tower of London, by a mob during the Peasants Revolt. It is the only time the walls of the Tower have been breached. Most of the murdered archbishop’s body is buried in Canterbury Cathedral but his head is kept at St Gregory’s Church, Gregory Street, Sudbury. Saturday, 10am-4pm.

8 Join set decorator extraordinaire Oliver Messel on a top secret mission at the Assembly House, Norwich. He was the stage designer who ran the government camouflage offices here. Make your own sets to disguise buildings and landmarks. Drop-in, Sunday, 12.30-4.30pm.

9 On Sunday, King’s Lynn is celebrating with more than 60 free special events across the town. See the air raid shelter beneath the Tuesday Market Place, ride on a miniature train at the Walks or climb up to the tower and down to the crypt at Clifton House. Meet medieval re-enactors on The Walks, civil war soldiers at the South Gate, mermaids at True’s Yard and morris dancers right across the town.

10 Wymondham Vintage Day, 10am-4pm Sunday, includes classic cars and motorbikes, live music, vintage-style games, walking tours and more. Join the fun by wearing your best vintage outfits.

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