Life in heart of the forest

Village focus in Santon Downham.   The village shop.

Village focus in Santon Downham. The village shop.

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Tucked away in the heart of Thetford Forest, Santon Downham is a quiet village with a close-knit community.

Cloistered by the forest pines, the village’s peaceful setting makes it the perfect starting point for a walk, cycle or ride through the surrounding woodland.

Santon Donwham village hall where ramblers arre holding an open day

Santon Donwham village hall where ramblers arre holding an open day

Once a year, the place comes alive as the EACH Ride for Life gets into action, with a mass of cyclists momentarily bursting the village bubble in a flurry of fund-raising activity.

The last event, on May 19, saw more than a thousand people taking part - in a village with a population of just 250.

Sylvia East, clerk for Santon Downham parish council, said the ride is the biggest event of the year for the village, but plenty more goes on besides.

“It is a quiet village but we try and put on as much as possible for residents.

Village focus in Santon Downham.     Church of St Mary.

Village focus in Santon Downham. Church of St Mary.

“There’s a core group of around six volunteers and we run lots of little events and monthly clubs,” she said.

These include car boot sales at the start of every month, pilates classes, cream teas and coffee mornings, a Christmas Bazaar and New Year’s dances.

The Breckland Club serves as a meeting place for villagers, while the Village Hall is available for private hire.

Despite the steady flow of activity, Ms East admits that new blood is needed to keep it going.

“It’s only a small group who run things and we aren’t getting any younger,” she said.

“We’d like to see more people getting involved in what is going on in the village so we can put on more events and add to what we have on offer.”

A village shop continues to serve residents, despite the loss of its postal service in 2000.

The village church of St Mary - part of which date back to at least the 12th century and was mentioned in the Domesday Book - is used every Sunday by a thriving congregation.

With Brandon nearby and Thetford just across the border in Norfolk, residents are also well served by weekly markets and larger stores.