To be honest the only reason to visit Thetford is due to the fact that’s it’s alter-ego is Walmington-on-Sea, as the outdoor scenes for Dad’s Army were filmed here, or in the nearby area. The producers felt that it best represented the 1940s era that they were trying to invoke. I’m not sure they’d feel the same way now!
Another reason that I wanted to visit (actually the only reason, as I didn’t know at that point that Dad’s Army was filmed there) was it’s importance in days gone by rivalled that of Norwich (this learned whilst visiting Norwich). Sadly the expectation was not realised as the town centre is dismal and depressing.
On finding the Dad’s Army museum we discovered that it was only actually open on Tuesdays and Saturdays – we should be used to this by now of course!! So that the day wasn’t a complete waste we headed over to the visit the priory. This is accessible on foot from the town but we took the car so that we could make a quick getaway!
In the interests of fairness I must say that there are parts of the town that are nicer. For instance we parked at the riverside by the new Travelodge and crossed the river on the green 3-way bridge (straight into the worst part of town…). However, the parking was free and if we’d walked past the hotel towards the older bridge we would have found the statue of Mr Mainwairing sitting by the river.
There is also a statue of Thomas Paine, an important political campaigner from the 17th century. This is situated in front of the church (opposite the pub in which the cast of Dad’s Army stayed during filming).
The priory (managed by English Heritage) is free to visit and has extensive ruins available for you to wander around together with numerous information boards. It was definitely worth a visit, but probably not enough to go out of your way for.
We both love Dad’s Army and made the decision to return the next day (Saturday) before leaving to go back up to Norfolk. So we did see the Dad’s Army Museum which is free to enter (although we put in a donation to have our photos taken with Mr Mainwairing). Sorry, CAPTAIN Mainwairing!
The building that houses the museum is the old fire station (and nothing was actually filmed here), and has various mock-ups, a short film and lots of photos and anecdotes from the series. We were glad to have visited and also having walked there along the river we found a slightly nicer part of town (i.e. we didn’t go through the town centre…)
We also saw Captain Mainwairing’s statue beside the river.
From here we moved on to West Norfolk. We had found a potential site to stay at in Snettisham Park but when we got there we didn’t like the look of it so we continued on. This ended up being quite a frustrating day trying to find a suitable site, but eventually we found Whitehall Farm, a Caravan Club certificated site in Burnham Thorpe – the birthplace of Admiral Nelson. Apparently we were lucky to get in as it’s a popular site, coupled with the fact that the Holkham Half (a half ironman event) was underway on both the Saturday and Sunday we were lucky. Most of the competitors staying at the farm were actually in tents.
The next day was due to be another lovely day so we resolved to spend the afternoon on the beach, after visiting Little Walsingham, a little village with a big history 😊