Sutton Who? Bewilderwhat?

The summer marches on, and our tally of family outings extends. We've done loads, but I'm struck (foolish really) how the really great experiences are the ones we don't plan, stumble across, cost nothing. By contrast, the disappointment that slugs like an overpriced bad meal in a poncy restaurant, is a bitter pill for these cultural tourists.

Two in particular, in fact. Sutton Hoo is a group of Anglo Saxon burial mounds on the banks of the river Deben in Suffolk. It is famous for an ancient boat that was discoverd within one of the tombs, and also a distinctive helmet, dug up. With enthusiasm we set of to experience these ancient artifacts, so often photographed and mentioned. Well! (Said in Hyacinth Bucket voice) Once we'd done the seemingly impressive visitor centre, which contained nothing more than a bunch of posters and a few resconstructed odds and ends, we set off to view.... a bunch of humps in the ground. The words clothes and emporer come to mind; frankly there aint nothing to see. Not great when you're eight. The boat has been covered up years ago, and the helmet is in the National Museum in London. By contrast the wonderful (free) museum in Ipswich Town Centre has a vast cache of Anglo Saxon artifacts plus the most amazing taxodermy collection you could hope to find. And truly fascinating slightly shabby models showing everyday life in days gone by. Frankly I'd like my thirty quid back from Sutton Hoo to give to Ipswich Museum to help touch up all those models decades of kids have enjoyed poking.

This weekend we found ourselves up in Norfolk, so decided to visit a "huge award winning forest of family fun and outdoor adventure", BeWILDerwood. The website was great, it looked good from the outside, we pays our forty five quid and enter... what was essentially a large adventure playground, heaving with snotty kids who clearly have no gross motor skills, most unable to climb a ladder in less than three minutes. It was horrid, and yea gods expensive. The photo opportunity (above) provided by this silly swing that made us look like cast members from The Borrowers was undoubtedly the highlight of this disappointing day.

By contrast, our car overheated last weekend and we found ourselves in Westleton, in time for the annual Barrel Festival. This was everthing you could want in a genuine village fair; Punch and Judy, mad unique competitive sport (rolling beer barrels with sticks), crusty highly recognisable British actors propping up the beer tent, kids races, hog roast, bric a brac. A joyful day.

This observation is yet another example of one of my favourite rants at the moment, and that is how the internet, clever design graphics, and a glut of marketing graduates has meant that the way a thing or place is represented online is almost always vastly better than the real thing. Great copy, kooky illustrations and clever pics can make even the most dreary of places look good.

Organised Attactions: nil. Accidental experience: lots.

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