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Ode to Deben uncovers hidden depths and basks in river’s tranquil beauty

PUBLISHED: 12:02 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:02 03 November 2017

Thames barge Melissa enters the Deben at the beginning of John McCarthy’s travels. Picture: JEMMA WATTS

Thames barge Melissa enters the Deben at the beginning of John McCarthy’s travels. Picture: JEMMA WATTS

Jemma Watts

A feature-length documentary will be premiered on the side of the river it eulogises.

Commentator and journalist John McCarthy begins a journey to a river he describes as ‘a more magical place than I had ever imagined’. Picture: JEMMA WATTSCommentator and journalist John McCarthy begins a journey to a river he describes as ‘a more magical place than I had ever imagined’. Picture: JEMMA WATTS

Life on the Deben is set to screen for the first time in Woodbridge next month.

Two years in the making, in association with the Woodbridge Riverside Trust (WRT), the film charts the length and history of the river from Celtic times to the present day, rising near Debenham, meandering towards Woodbridge and entering the North Sea at Felixstowe.

Producers promise to uncover ‘astonishing’ new interpretations of the river’s history, from the latest findings on the Anglo-Saxon period, to evidence of an extensive medieval port at its mouth.

As well as exploring the past, the film will look at protecting the river’s future.

From left: Journalist John McCarthy, film producer Malcolm Hodd and director/cameraman Tim Curtis. Picture: JEMMA WATTSFrom left: Journalist John McCarthy, film producer Malcolm Hodd and director/cameraman Tim Curtis. Picture: JEMMA WATTS

Journalist John McCarthy, a former Woodbridge resident, traced the length of the Deben with local film-maker Tim Curtis from disputed upper tributaries, through little known reaches, and down to the estuary from Woodbridge to Bawdsey and Felixstowe Ferry.

Mr McCarthy spoke to the team detectorists and archaeologists behind recent Anglo-Saxon finds in Rendlesham confirming the Deben’s place at the heart of one of England’s early kingdoms.

In the film, lead archaeologist Professor Chris Scull said the discoveries were of the highest importance, “changing our ideas of south east Suffolk, the East Anglian kingdom, early England, and their wider place in the North Sea world.”

With the help of experts and people living along the riverbank banks, the film also explores wildlife and conservation, boat building, sailing, farming, fishing, milling, and even smuggling.

McCarthy said: “I lived beside and sailed on the Deben for many years and loved it for all its tranquil beauty. But I’d never appreciated the hidden depths, historical and natural, that we’ve discovered making the film.

“It’s even more magical a place than I’d ever imagined.”

The film’s producer, and WRT trustee, Malcolm Hodd said: “We believe this is the most comprehensive review of the whole river Deben ever made, a call to protect this amazing asset for future generations.”

The film will be released at the Riverside Theatre on December 3, and will be available on DVD, with profits donated to the WRT.

Visit lifeonthedeben.com for more information.

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