Monday 27 May 2019
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Travels in history: The fifth continent and the making of England

Two regions of England have a fascinating story to tell. It is one that reaches back through centuries of interaction between the people, the land and the sea, and which is found within their particularly rich and striking natural and cultural heritage.

Romney Marsh: The fifth continent

“The world, according to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Romney Marsh” (The Ingoldsby Legends by Richard Harris Barham).

Situated in the south-east corner of England, Romney Marsh is one of Britain’s most unique and intriguing regions, renowned for its rugged beauty and rich history. A flat tract of some 100 square miles, it projects bravely and calmly out to sea, distinct from the rolling hills and cliffs nearby. A 28 mile long canal hugs the Marsh’s landward edge, effectively cutting it off from the mainland.

But the distinctiveness of this open, almost eerily strange landscape is more than physical. Life on ‘The Marsh’, as locals refer to it, has evolved a fascinating character and identity of its own. People have lived here since prehistoric times but most of the Marsh would now be flooded were it not for the sea walls and drainage ditches dating back to Roman times. This precarious platform of land is something of a world apart, a
‘Fifth Continent’, but it has been vital to the defence of England since Saxon times and always prized for its busy ancient ports and fertile sheep pastures.

A tour of the Marsh will reveal evidence of Saxons, Vikings, Normans, notorious smugglers, Nazi spies, inspired authors and many more colourful characters. It is famous for its medieval churches, within the walls of which are clues to a forgotten past, a past that was once carried on the shoulders of Kings, Archbishops, murderous pirates and scheming politicians. The churches are sometimes the only surviving testament to whole communities that disappeared to become the eleven lost villages of the Marsh.

The smuggler’s tales of Russell Thorndyke’s Dr Syn novels are perhaps the best known stories from the Marsh but many famous authors and artists have found inspiration in the hidden history and strange beauty. This summer, local resident and professional archaeologist Dr Christopher Cole, invites you to join him on a unique 5 day tour based in the historic Mermaid Inn in Rye. His passion for and knowledge of the Marsh, its people and its history, give the tour an especially intimate insight (for details see below).

East Anglia: Origins of England

The rich lands of Norfolk and Suffolk are steeped in the tribal origins of England and brimming with an unmatched medieval heritage. Facing continental Europe, they have hosted wave after wave of settlers in England’s history, including Celts, Romans, Anglo Saxons, Danes and Normans.

Much of the region is prone to flooding and, like Romney Marsh, the flat landscape has been reclaimed for settlement and agriculture over many centuries. It now offers both a classic and unique representation of the English countryside, and still retains its winding lanes, rolling fields, timbered villages and pebbled beaches in abundance.

It could also be described as a quintessence of the history of England. It was the tribal land of the Celtic Iceni, whose fearless Queen Boudicca led an uprising against Roman rule. In Anglo-Saxon times it was the Kingdom of the East Angles, one of the most powerful of the time, and home to the warrior-kings whose burial treasures were famously unearthed at Sutton Hoo, still the richest burial ever found in northern Europe. During the Middle Ages East Anglia developed into a powerhouse of agriculture, trade and religious activity, with Norwich as England’s second city.

A tour of East Anglia will reward you with some of the finest medieval architecture and pure historical interest from anywhere in England. This summer you are invited to join historian Dr Martin Locker and archaeologist Dr Neil Faulkner as they explore Anglo-Saxon villages, Norman manors and monasteries, Christian saints and pilgrims and the creation of medieval England.

Latest research and discoveries.

Based in the 4-star St Giles House Hotel in Norwich, this unique six day tour includes a fascinating day on a live excavation seeing the latest discoveries being made and the field techniques used, coupled with a wider exploration of the region’s unrivalled Anglo-Saxon and medieval sites. Enjoy lectures and guided visits to Sutton Hoo, Castle Acre, Walsingham, West Stow, Burgh and Norwich.


Romney Marsh: 19 June, 17 July and 14 August 2017. Only £625 per person including 4 nights accommodation, all breakfasts, a 3-course evening meal on the first night, all excursion transport, entrances and expert guiding.

East Anglia: 23 July and 30 July 2017. Only £699 per person including 5 nights accommodation, all breakfasts, a 3-course evening meal on the first night, all excursion transport, entrances and expert guiding.



For details of these and other fascinating journeys into history, prehistory and the ancient world, visit or call them for a brochure on 0121 444 1854. Hidden History Travel explores a range of destinations in Britain, Europe and the Mediterranean. Combine beautiful locations with fascinating insights from archaeology and history through our expertly guided tours, gentle walks and interesting talks.

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