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Living the 7th century life and looking for his Saxon girl

PUBLISHED: 06:00 09 November 2019 | UPDATED: 20:00 09 November 2019

Alec Newland prefers the natural way of life as opposed to modern living. Picture: COURTESY OF PROMINENT P.R.

Alec Newland prefers the natural way of life as opposed to modern living. Picture: COURTESY OF PROMINENT P.R.

Archant

Not content with the modern way of living and drawn to the region for it's rich Anglo-Saxon history, Alec Newland's lifestyle is more in keepng with 625 AD than the 21st century.

Alec Newland is currently volunteering at the Longshed in Woodbridge where plans to build a full size replica of the Sutton Hoo ship are in progress. Picture: COURTESY OF PROMINENT P.R.Alec Newland is currently volunteering at the Longshed in Woodbridge where plans to build a full size replica of the Sutton Hoo ship are in progress. Picture: COURTESY OF PROMINENT P.R.

He doesn't own a smartphone, or wear jeans or trainers, go clubbing, watch TV or play on a games console.

He has never eaten a microwave meal, doesn't use a washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher, kettle, toaster or electric shower.

He won't drive a car or even cycle a bike saying: "It's just not historically accurate".

Living as a Saxon has become the norm for the 21 year old who has shunned a contemporary lifestyle in favour of living as close to nature as possible.

Alec Newland, pictured aged four, has always held an interest in history and traditional ways of living. Picture: COURTESY OF PROMINENT P.R.Alec Newland, pictured aged four, has always held an interest in history and traditional ways of living. Picture: COURTESY OF PROMINENT P.R.

"Dressed the way I am, I get some strange looks and stares but I'm doing what I love and life is much better when you don't care what people think," said the student.

Camping under an oak tree over the summer months in Waldringfield using only a handwoven tent made from wool, Mr Newland even foraged for food like the Saxons would have had to.

Searching for berries, mushrooms and nuts at sunrise every morning, he said: "It's an incredible thing to wake up every morning to a beautiful sunrise underneath an oak tree."

Studying zoology and biosciences, he is now back at Exeter University and having to stay in the halls of residence.

Alec Newland is currently volunteering at the Longshed in Woodbridge where plans to build a full size replica of the Sutton Hoo ship are in progress. Picture: COURTESY OF PROMINENT P.R.Alec Newland is currently volunteering at the Longshed in Woodbridge where plans to build a full size replica of the Sutton Hoo ship are in progress. Picture: COURTESY OF PROMINENT P.R.

But he is determined to continue his traditional way of Saxon life by wearing homemade clothes and using a handwoven rucksack and admits: "I learn new things every day but occasionally normal life gets in the way."

Originally from Somerset after living with his mother and older brother in a house in the woods, he said: "When I was four, I would dress up as a caveman, make dens and sleep outdoors.

"I still sleep outdoors but I've moved on to the Saxons and am fascinated by their ability to be sustainable."

Famous for being one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time and the home to one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon treasures ever to be unearthed, Sutton Hoo was an obvious calling for him.

Alec Newland prefers the natural way of life as opposed to modern living. Picture: COURTESY OF PROMINENT P.R.Alec Newland prefers the natural way of life as opposed to modern living. Picture: COURTESY OF PROMINENT P.R.

Mr Newland made his way to East Anglia to get involved with the Make Ship Happen Campaign, founded by the Sutton Hoo Ship's Company, where he spent his summer days volunteering to help reconstruct the 90ft burial ship using traditional tools and methods.

"I'm learning blacksmithing, metal work and woodwork and I have the privilege of working on the biggest and first large-scale naval experimental archaeology project in England," he said.

"Back in Saxon days a man of my age with a boat builder for a father would have been doing a job like this from the age of 13."

He will return to Suffolk for the Christmas holidays to continue with the project over December, living in the tent with the addition of a sheepskin for warmth.

"I've always wanted to be as connected to nature as possible," said Mr Newland, "Even as a child I was desperate to be outdoors and hands on. Computer games never interested me.

"I wanted a real bow and arrow to go and hunt rabbits."

Speaking of his fascination with the medieval era. Mr Newland said: "The modern way of living is always about how to make life easy and comfortable.

"Back in 625 AD people had to make do with what they had and yet despite not having the technology we have now, they created incredible things - beautiful jewellery, an ornate helmet, an enormous ship."

Thinking of his future plans, he hopes one day to build a house of his own in the forest and continue living off grid to embrace the wildness of natural survival and said: "One day I want to use everything I have learnt living as a Saxon.

"Hardly any people today have basic survival skills and yet humans have lived as hunter-gatherers for 99% of the time they have been on earth.

"My only issues is having to shake the earwigs out of my boots every morning."

There is only one thing missing from his life, he says: "I don't have a girlfriend right now.

"I suppose the girl I would look for would be happiest in nature so if she's out there and looking for an adventure, it would be great to find a Saxon girl.

"I am here waiting."

Make Ship Happen

The Sutton Hoo Ship Company (SHSC) is aiming to raise £1million to build a replica, working version of the royal burial ship entombed in the mounds at the world famous Saxon archaeological site.

In collaboration with the National Trust and the Woodbridge Riverside Trust, the SHSC was formed in 2016 for the sole purpose of reproducing an exact copy of the famous find, with the shared hope of seeing the ship's skeleton in the sand transformed into a robust real life boat sailing graciously along the River Deben.

Sea trials will take place once the 90ft replica ship has been built, hoping to gain further insights in to how the ship historically held its own in the turbulent times of the dark ages.

The first phase of the programme allows people to sponsor one of the 3,500 metal rivets that will hold the ship together. Also on offer are 90 oars for £1,000 each - which can be emblazoned with the name of their sponsor.

Different parts of the ship - the keel, the planks and the stem and stern - are also to be offered up for sponsorship to pay for the rest of the build, which is likely to take about two years to complete.

To get involved, sponsor a rivet or make a donation visit makeshiphappen.co.uk or saxonship.org

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