£1.9million acquisition at Sutton Hoo set to provide visitors with riverside access

a grassy field in the weak early morning sun rolling down to the river with a town beyond
Published : 08 Jun 2022 Last update : 07 Jun 2022

There will soon be more reasons to visit Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, following the National Trust’s purchase of Little Haugh, on the banks of the River Deben. The newly acquired site consists of 27 acres of grassland, which, after careful planning, will enable visitors to enjoy riverside access for the first time and views across the river to Woodbridge.

The £1.9 million acquisition was made possible thanks to a legacy and is set to enhance the experience at Sutton Hoo, one of the country’s most important archaeological sites and one of Suffolk’s most popular visitor attractions. 

This new acquisition of land, which is planned to open in spring 2023, will provide greater access and new walking routes. It will also create a better visual connection between the river and the landscape, helping to aid understanding of why this site was chosen as the final resting place of Anglo-Saxon royalty. 

The Royal Burial Ground is located close to the estuary, which would have been a busy highway in the 7th century, just six miles from the North Sea. It was from here that the 27-metre-long ship discovered at Sutton Hoo in 1939, would have been hauled up the valley to its prominent position. The Great Ship Burial is believed to be the final resting place of King Rædwald, the warrior king, would leave a powerful statement of his authority. 

Property Operations Manager, Allison Girling, said; “We’re excited to be able to share the news that we’ve acquired Little Haugh and what this will mean for our visitors. Being able to provide closer access to the river, will help our visitors understand Sutton Hoo’s position in the landscape, which for many, has been a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle."

Mist rises over Little Haugh in the early morning sun
mist rises above a grassy field in the early morning sun. A pond lined with Yellow Flag irises sits is in the foreground with an overhanging tree to the right
Mist rises over Little Haugh in the early morning sun

“The newly purchased land is within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From here, visitors will be able to enjoy views of the estuary and Woodbridge across the water, which is where a full-size replica of the Sutton Hoo ship is currently being constructed by a local charity, The Sutton Hoo Ship's Company.  

We look forward to being able to open this area to visitors in the near future, which will transform their experience even further, supporting the £4million investment already made to the site thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.” 

The newly acquired land also means that the National Trust will now be in a better position to adapt to climate change, giving the estuary’s saltmarsh room to adapt in the face of rising sea levels and coastal squeeze. 

This estuary is internationally designated as a Special Protection Area for its wintering avocet and dark-bellied brent goose. It is also of national importance for its winter populations of redshank, shelduck and black-tailed godwit.  

A shelduck wading through the mud in the River Deben
a duck is seen paddling in mud in the foreground with a washed up dead tree behind it in the back ground
A shelduck wading through the mud in the River Deben

There is also a population of the rare narrow-mouthed whorl snail close to the water’s edge, so plans to create access will be very sensitive to wildlife that lives on the saltmarsh and mudflats.

" Gifts in Wills play an important role in ensuring the National Trust can look after the wonderful places in our care for everyone to enjoy.  We are delighted that this gift has been used to help with this important addition of land that will create greater access to the historic Sutton Hoo site."
- Helen Hoare, Head of Legacy Administration

The sale of Little Haugh also included two further acres of woodland, ponds, a four-bedroom thatched house that was formerly two cottages dating back to the 17th century and a converted barn, boat shed and workshop. The future use of these buildings will now be explored.