Project blog

'...A plan and not quite enough time...'

posted Oct 17, 2018, 2:20 AM by Caroline Davison   [ updated Oct 17, 2018, 2:21 AM ]

Those that have worked with me in the last few weeks know that one of my favourite quotes is from the brilliant Leonard Bernstein “To do great things two things are needed: A plan and not quite enough time…”.  After a year of activities in Burnham including archaeology, research, creative workshops, discovery days and public talks the Imagined Land project came to its peak on 22nd September with a historical pageant on the friary site, pulled together by the community in just 6 days. 


Everyone pulled the stops out.  We had 16 singers, 26 school children, 14 actors, many more makers and doers behind the scenes getting things ready for the one night only event which told tales of the friars, fishermen, farmers and fighters that have populated Burnham over the centuries.   If you are reading this, chances are that you were involved in some way – if you were not, then I'm sorry that you missed out – it was fabulous.   And among the best things about it was the momentum that our short timescale allowed.

Throughout the week a growing number of sewers, singers, monk and banner makers and amateur [some first-time!] actors came together at the school during day and evening to drive the project on to its final Saturday, when we could finally pull it all together. In the walk-thru rehearsal there was that moment when everyone saw what everyone else had been up to and got a little bit more excited.  Then they knew “We’re gonna do this!”


Then comes 6.30pm, the wind drops [the weather always behaves!}, the audience arrives and we cash in all the hard work to make an hour that will live long in the memory of anyone who was there.  There is nothing more rewarding than art built by communities. With, for, about and by. I hope I will do it all my life.

There are many people to thank, many stories to tell of the serendipity of shared creative endeavour. Sometimes we just did not know how we would get there – just that we would – because we said we would. There is a boldness and a kind of genius in that – people come together, take a risk and make connections with one another towards shared goal deepening both the connections they have and making new ones that will survive way beyond the life of the project.   

I cannot mention everyone, so I won’t mention any. I hope the pictures tell some of the story –  to add to those we did and the many we didn’t tell of this beautiful, intriguing place.  It was classless too -  people from every strata and age. A shared history, a shared goal and a shortness of time.  Bravo!

Simon Floyd, Project Manager

Photos by Harry Cory Wright - with thanks -  unless labelled otherwise


Saxon burials, Carmelite monks and a lot of oysters...

posted Jul 3, 2018, 8:56 AM by Caroline Davison   [ updated Jul 3, 2018, 9:27 AM ]

What a wonderful two weeks we have had in the school and village. Together we wrote poems, made pots, built banners, sung, scripted, carved, illuminated, painted and performed.

It all culminated in a joyous final assembly on Friday when the whole school and a fair few villagers turned out to watch the children display the fruits of their labours.

We have a song for Burnham too – with a catchy sea-shanty rhythm.

This all gives us a great platform from which to make the pageant happen in September, by which time local author Kevin Crossley- Holland and project writer Mags Chalcraft will have developed the inspirations and discoveries into a performable script.

Looking at what emerged I can see tales of Saxon burials, Carmelite monks, oyster beds, dune building, fishermen’s disputes and much, much more.  I am especially excited by having discovered God and the Devil, played by two terrific Year 4 performers who, if their parents allow, will be more than capable of holding their own in front of a village crowd.

As we move towards the comparative lull of August the local planning group will continue to meet and make their creative contributions and the writers will get busy. Then it will be down to the people of the Burnhams to spring forward and help us play, sew, build, sing and perform in what will be a busy week beginning 16th September. 


All plans will be outlined at the Open Meeting at the school on 6th September [7-9]

Meanwhile – you could learn the lines of that song ….

Come with us through mist and marsh

Between the land and singing sea

To a smuggler’s home built of sand and stone

The holy spring and old friary  -

Field and creek beneath our feet

It’s here that ground and spirit meet  

 On the Norfolk coast we love the most

Bound for Burnham by the sea.


We’re Burnham Norton bound my friends

Where land begins and saltmarsh ends

The sky worldwide, the rip of tide

Bound for Burnham by the sea.


 Simon Floyd 03.07.2018

Imagined Land Project – 2018 Test-pitting

posted Jun 27, 2018, 3:22 AM by Caroline Davison   [ updated Jul 2, 2018, 6:21 AM ]

I am pleased to report that the archaeological test-pitting achieved our goal of 8 test-pits excavated over the course of eight busy days, between Monday 21st and Monday the 28th of May. 

The first five days of the project focused on the school grounds of Burnham Market Primary School, opposite the Carmelite Friary site. Throughout the week, all of the school children took part in the various archaeological tasks including sieving, trowelling, finds processing and metal detecting. The children were highly motivated and the teachers and pupils made good use of the archaeology week as an opportunity for themed learning, with some excellent writing and practical activities inspired by the archaeology, including an impressive array of soap knapped prehistoric tools. The younger children were also inspired to organise their own small test-pit in their outdoor play area!

The three test-pits at the school recovered a large variety of finds, although the initial discovery of a gold coin turned out to be a chocolate coin wrapper! Medieval pottery, fragments of butchered animal bone and oyster shells showed that the land was certainly in use here in the 13th to 14th century. A small number of prehistoric flints were also collected, including a crude scraper of Late Neolithic to Bronze Age date. A test-pit at the rear of the playing field recovered numerous fragments of fired clay in the form of daub fragments, evidence for a possible oven or similar wattle and daub structure of uncertain date close by.

Other examples of finds from the school grounds included a Victorian penny and several pre-decimal coins of 1930s to 1950s date which may well have been lost from the pockets of some of the first pupils at the school. 

The most amazing find of the whole project was discovered by metal detector in the school grounds, uncovered by the children. It is a form of highly decorated mount or strap-end made of copper-alloy with traces of gold gilding and with two silver rivets still in place. The Zoomorphic design appears to incorporate the rivets as the eyes of an animal face and currently a 9th century date is suggested based on the style. This is a high-status Late Saxon period object of excellent workmanship and a rare find indeed.

From the Wednesday to Friday, test-pitting within the garden of a property off Friar’s Lane was carried out by local volunteers supervised by Wendy & Rob of the Caistor Roman Project. Despite finding a Grimston-type medieval pottery sherd, they successfully demonstrated that the land there was probably fairly marginal in the medieval period, with several deep layers of silts testifying to likely flooding events. The team put in a sterling effort reaching a metre in depth, before hand-auger testing to reach clean clays and the water table a further metre down.

Over the bank holiday weekend a further 4 test-pits and a metal detection survey was undertaken on seasonal camping land known as Burnham Breck at St Margaret’s Church (just one field over from the school), with local people and families taking part. Although not as finds rich as those at the school, evidence from multiple periods was recovered. One of the seemingly sterile test-pits went on to recover several late prehistoric flints of probable Bronze Age date. Traces of iron smelting slag were collected from another test-pit and pottery from the site ranged from Roman through to Medieval sherds. Metal finds included a 1st to 2nd century Roman coin, a George III ‘cartwheel penny’, a 16th century trading token (jetton) from Nuremburg and a 17th century bronze Crotal bell. 

Overall the test-pitting has provided a surprising quantity of finds, with artefacts reflecting human history over the course of not just hundreds but thousands of years of activity. All of the finds must now be fully catalogued prior to analysis, the results of which will provide the basis for a detailed archaeological report. The supervisors from the Caistor Roman Project pass on their thanks to all those they have had the pleasure of working alongside. I would also like to take this opportunity to offer a huge thank you to all who took part and helped to make the test-pitting such a success.

I look forward to visiting the school again in due course to share more details of the various discoveries we made together.

Giles Emery, Norvic Archaeology


Imagined Land 2018 Test-pitting at Burnham Norton: how to get involved

posted May 16, 2018, 1:33 AM by Caroline Davison

This test-pitting project will be the first investigation of its type within the setting of the Scheduled Monument of St Mary’s Carmelite Friary. This exciting opportunity will provide a valuable new insight into the history of the Friary and its wider landscape. We aim to discover new information on the setting of the monument and the potential for associated medieval (or earlier) activity. 

If you are interested in taking part then please contact the project a.s.a.p.!


      School Dig Week: 21st to 25th May (aim of four test-pits)

      Mid-Week Dig: 23rd to 25th May (a test-pit off Friars Lane)

      Bank Holiday Weekend Dig: 26th to 28th May (aim of three test-pits on Burnhambreck – field adjacent to St Margaret’s)

The test-pitting will be led by me - Giles Emery of Norvic Archaeology, supported by volunteer supervisors from the Caistor Roman Project. There are plenty of ways to get involved including digging, sieving for finds, finds cleaning and the all-important supplying of cake to keep up our strength!

To volunteer to assist with some or all of the mid-week dig (limited places remaining) or the larger Bank Holiday dig at Burnhambreck, you can contact the project through my email:  

Please register prior to the Bank Holiday Weekend dig to confirm your place in the test-pit teams, the more volunteers we get the more we can achieve! If you are unable to confirm your availability at this stage, there will also be limited spaces for volunteers to drop in each day and take part on the Burnhambreck dig, where we will also be welcoming visitors if you just fancy popping by to see how things are going.

The 3 events

School Dig Week (21st to 25th May)

The school children and a limited number of parents/carers will spend the week test-pitting in the school grounds to investigate the archaeological potential of the site. Previous discoveries in and around the school grounds include a 6th century Saxon Brooch thrown up against the school fence in 1962 by a farmer’s cultivator (!) along with sherds of pottery ranging from Roman to Medieval date from flowerbeds and even a fragment of human bone (!!). Aerial photographs taken of the school site before its construction in 1953 show possible signs of medieval buildings close to the road as cropmarks and a former roadway once linked the Church of St Margaret’s to the Friary until the 1800s.

Mid-week dig 23rd to 25th May (a test-pit off Friars Lane)

A mid-week test-pit will be carried out within a private garden of a property around the corner from the school along Friar’s Lane, where hints of ridge and furrow and sherds of Saxon to medieval pottery suggest possible settlement.

Bank Holiday Dig (26th to 28th May (on Burnhambreck – field adjacent to St Margaret’s)

On the Bank Holiday Weekend the project will focus on the long thin field adjacent to St Margaret’s Church, now known as Burnhambreck and used as a summer popup campsite (access from either Bellmay’s Lane and Herring’s Lane – please note that the church car park itself will be busy for services on both Saturday and Sunday morning). 

The fields here have yielded pottery and metal objects of multiple historic periods and cropmarks have been recorded on the site showing two enclosures of uncertain date. These have been tentatively suggested to be Saxon or Medieval in date. Hopefully a series of test-pits on the site will throw some light on the likely date of past activity here, where an earlier incarnation of the church could have once formed part of a former settlement.

I look forward to working with you soon.

Giles Emery

Tel: (01603) 494685

Mob: 07759 016372

~ Find Norvic Archaeology on Facebook!


posted Apr 18, 2018, 1:25 AM by Caroline Davison

It’s always great doing that first school assembly.  So many hours, weeks and months of planning and discussion to get to that point, and then, finally, we can tell the kids. In no time, I tell them, they are going to have their heads in a hole digging up the past and embarking on a journey of discovery and inspiration.  

This morning I watched them leave their classrooms and troop into the hall in that dutiful way kids do.  They formed the usual neat lines in front of a smattering of mums and dads and sat on the floor. What struck me however, was that they were listening to music.  A simple classical piece played as they arrived to hear whatever it was their ‘special guest’ had to say to them.

It bodes well, I thought. If the kids at Burnham Market Primary are tuning in to music to focus their learning, it means they will really respond to our creative music sessions in late June.  Perhaps it also means they will be able to play some properly authentic monks in our September pageant. But I’m leaping ahead.  Way too far ahead!

I spoke to an open silence for 10 minutes or so; showing them pictures of the kids last year in Tasburgh, explaining what we are going to do together. They were all ears; their attentiveness was almost uncanny for a crowd of children.  When I asked if there were any questions there was a sea of small wondering faces in front of me before a hand shot straight up at the back and a bright-eyed Year 5 asked eagerly “When do we start digging?”.  Lovely, I thought.  We are underway.

Underway indeed.  This ‘launch’ assembly is coupled with the unbelievable success of our first Landscape Study Day at the village hall on Saturday, which was attended by over 60 local people and quite fascinating.  As many again are booked onto the next one on 28th April.

For any that missed out don’t worry, you can hear and see more again at our drop-in event  The BURNHAM BRING and SHARE on Jun 9th.  We have yet to finalise the programme, but it will have something for everyone.  


So, I am at last satisfied that all the children and a good chunk of the community now know about Imagined Land and what we hope to achieve in the coming months.  

As the project begins to bear its fruit, things are coming towards us quickly.  Specifically, to answer the young man’s question, the archaeology week is just a month away now, and the community briefing [7pm, 10th May] only a matter of weeks.  I know how much fun everyone will find it. I also know how much work a lot of people will get through. Including me.

Fun is work, and work is fun. Think I’ll go and put some music on … 
Simon Floyd 17.4.18.

WEATHER AND GOOD WILL - 18th March 2018

posted Mar 19, 2018, 5:20 AM by Caroline Davison

The weather has hampered our start somewhat - with the first archive session led by Dr John Alban having to be cancelled not once but twice due to snow.  We may have had a frustrated start, but the wheels of the community are still turning.  I am a great believer in the principle that we have what we need, and if we don’t, we can find it. A community as rich in historic interest and creative potential as the Burnhams can only serve to underline it.

This week one member of our increasingly active Local Planning Group showed his proficient graphic design skills in producing a brochure promoting our Spring events. What he managed in his 30-minute lunchbreak would have taken me a century to complete!

I shall be visiting the village tomorrow to poster them everywhere and increase the wider community’s awareness of the exciting things we are doing, none of which would be possible without similarly brilliant contributions from those who are volunteering their time to make Imagined Land a success.

We are staging two events on the Historic Landscape in April – with both local and national contributors extending our understanding of the development of Burnham Norton and examining the fundamental role that the friary within that community. Both events, organised in partnership with NAHRG [] on 14th and 28th April will start at the Burnham Market Village Hall and include talks from experts as well as guided field trips on the land itself.

In May we are kicking off the archaeology programme with a community briefing at the school on the evening of 10th May and the digs themselves taking place less than a fortnight later – so if you want to get muddy, let us know!

If you would rather stay in the warm until the relative safety of early summer then come to our discovery day at the school on 9th June to see what has been discovered, and how the children of the school have responded. 

Then we are gearing up for the creative weeks, again using the contributions of local artists alongside our own commissioned project artists in music, craft and creative writing. It is already shaping up to be a really stimulating fortnight for adults and children alike.

There are more plans – for a Carmelite inspired concert later in the year and perhaps a visit of a senior friar from the modern-day order. As always information about all of this can be found on this site, and I am always contactable on if you want to know more.

So, weather permitting, we march on with some terrific local support. I hope all the arctic winds coming now will mean we will be free of them in September when I and the other artists will be camping in the village in the lead up to the pageant event on Saturday 22nd. That at least should be free of bad weather! 

Simon Floyd Project Manager

The New Year has started with a bang!

posted Feb 6, 2018, 6:02 AM by Caroline Davison   [ updated Feb 6, 2018, 6:03 AM ]

 Yes, things have begun well in Burnham Norton – but that is not quite what I mean . Everything was a little held up last week after I picked a fight with a plate glass door and cracked a bone above my right eye.   So I am grateful to some very active and willing sorts in the village who have helped me keep the ball rolling through the fog of my concussion.
Friary Gatehouse from the school

We had over 50 people at our first open meeting back in November, and from that number a brave 12 have stepped up to help us to plan and implement all that is coming in the next nine months. We have a parish councillor, a visual artist, a local tradesman, a parent with children at the school, a 3rd generation resident and keen local historian, a barrister and a second homer with significant IT skills.  A fair representation of the village itself I think, and it means we have the expertise and interest we need to make this project a great success.

It is still in the very early stages but things are now moving forward nicely. With the help of NAHRG and ex- county archivist John Alban things are kicking off with two research workshops open to anyone in the Burnhams who is keen to learn more about delving into the archives. These will be at the school on Saturdays to ensure as many people have the chance to come as possible: 3rd and 17th March.  [contact for more]

These workshops I hope will inspire people to take on the task of developing a longer term local history group that can continue after the project has finished, as has happened in Tasburgh, where the villagers have created FOIL – Friends of Imagined Land. In Burnham there is already considerable interest in the idea of developing a village chronicle, and if we can give a boost to this by bringing skills and insight then that would be a great legacy.

Citizen researchers is a term I seem to be using a lot of late. As a theatre maker I have to acknowledge that not everyone wants to stand up and sing. The research – including later landscape discovery workshops, field walking, information sessions and the all-ages archaeology activities in May, will provide the people of the village with many ways to access their history.

It will all culminate in an open “Sharing Day” at the beginning of June. The local planning group will publish a full list of the spring activities later in the month – so look out for posters , email updates and information on the project website.

After spending a day in Burnham talking to a few of the planning group I am struck by how much enthusiasm and knowledge exists in the Burnhams. With enthusiastic beach collectors, brilliant amateur woodcutters, Nelson scholars and award-winning writers already well and truly out of the woodwork I am quite sure we have the talent and interest to make sure there is something for everyone; and when eventually we do come for our 4 day camp in September I hope this will carry forward into creating a village pageant that people can remember for a very long time....

SF 06.02.18

Burnham Norton- the project begins...

posted Nov 14, 2017, 2:07 AM by Caroline Davison

I'm just sitting here printing off the handouts for Wednesday's public meeting in Burnham Norton as the project turns its focus to the Friary.

There is a pleasing overlap in that as I do so two emails come in from Tasburgh- one about Giles returning the finds to them from the May digs, and another about the continuing enthusiasm in the village as the residents plan to keep historical research and creative activity going with the momentum that we built up throughout the year.  The nascent FOIL [Friends of Imagined Land] group will have our full support - the connections we have made should endure for the benefit of all. 

So as the ship sails toward Burnham [note the suitable maritime analogy] I wonder what we will find there. I remember worrying that we would not get many to come and hear about our plans at the same stage last year. Open meetings are always an unknown quantity - but if Tasburgh is anything to go by we have nothing to fear.  

Because of the position of the site we are going to work very closely with the school, and rather than working across the summer holidays the creative artists will be coming in more defined chunks' of activity time - to work with both the school and the local community on making the final event. There is a lot happening : digs, discovery days, exhibitions and field walks. A sketch of the year ahead can be found on the training and events page.

Before that, of course, we must start the research, and once again we are delighted to  be working with John Alban - former county archivist and his exceptional team from NAHRG. We have several  months at the beginning of the project to get under the skin of the friary and see what we can discover about this fascinating site.

If you can't make the meeting on Wednesday just drop me a line on or phone me on 07896 781574.

Onwards …

Simon Floyd
Project Manager

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