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Thetford >  Google™ Map Sep 2015  Thetford Sign

þēod tribe, people + ford Old English (river) crossing. Population - 24,833.

England-Norfolk Flag UK > England > Norfolk

Sep 2015

Thetford Sign

Some old tribe or other gave name to this place and not as is commonly believed, the early days of automotive manufacturing. No, 'The T-Ford' wasn't first built here, that's just an inferior attempt at a Bob Holness.

There's room for whatever your variant of motorised carriage, these days, just off Pike Lane, something that will soon become hilariously apt. There's a reminder of the American War of Independence but that's all water under the bridge just like the unexpectedly enticing River Thet.

It's out onto Guildhall Street and the old Guildhall makes for a fine, if a little overexposed, sight. It sits in one corner of the marketplace and in the other, the Red Lion and a mob of Eastern migrants.

Thetford - The Guildhall

Before you think SlyBob's gone all Daily Mail, that'll be the old East End of London, of course. Reminders of post-war relocation, operation 'overspill' although in the Mail's case it's usually overkill.

The Red Lion? It sounded more like we woz outside the Blind Beggar.

  The Red Lion (Guildhall Street) wetherspoon

The Spoons have a tradition of naming their pubs based on the history of the town or the old building they invariably inhabit. The inevitable offering in a town of this size is called the Red Lion because, well, it has been the Red Lion since the 1840s.

There are no awards for their nearly-out-of-date ale and none for the Director of Contrived Waterhole Naming, neither, who was clearly on holiday or couldn't be bothered to get out of bed that day. Whoever deputised on the decision is getting an immediate (0/5) for a lack of imagination and they might as well have stayed in bed themselves that morning.

It's fairly familiar fayre along the pedestrianised part of King Street but Thetford was the birthplace of Thomas Paine. No? SlyBob's never heard of him, neither.

Thetford - Thomas Paine

Only one of the Founding Fathers of the United States he was, it says here, and emigrated there just in time to kickstart the American Revolution. Not so much a turncoat, just turned a bit on the red coats.

Unknown at the time, there's a more famous figure in ferrous just down the way. Why it's only old Arthur Lowe in his Captain Mainwaring guise. Thetford provided most of the outside filming locations for Walmington-on-Sea, you see, and houses the Dad's Army Museum.

But, but, but, Thetford's not even on the sea? I know, I know and if you can curb that lifestyle a little and keep yourself in for once on a Saturday night, BBC2 repeats will reveal they never were, neither. Whenever they found themselves in a watery caper, it was invariably on a river. Or a lake.

  Dad's Army Museum (Cage Lane)

The museum keeps slightly irregular opening times and on checking, it was closed. A bit of a shame because Bob's a bit of a fan, stupid boy! If you do check the opening hours and they ask, don't tell them your name and definitely not where you've parked.

No visit to Thetford's not complete without a visit to Thetford Forest so this visit wasn't. A family gathering in Cambridge beckoned and promised pints over pines.

Just five minutes over the River Thet, however, and you're in what feels like open country with modern town shopping a million miles, well, less than a mile away, actually.

Thetford - River Thet
Thetford - Ardea cinerea

With all this talk of statues, this looked as though it had been nicked from a garden centre. It took a minute but, just like Thomas Paine, it soon revealed its true colours.

  Thetford Forest

Just west of town is the largest lowland pine forest in the UK, no less. It might be the largest, it's also one of the newest with most of the planting happening after World War I and no visit to Thetford's not complete without a visit to Thetford Forest, just not today.