Our flagship excavation at Leiston Abbey is now complete, but it turns out there’s a prequel to the story; before building Leiston Abbey in 1363, the priests spent 200 years living in the wilds of Minsmere… Can you help us uncover their story?

RSPB Minsmere is now a worldfamous bird reserve, but 1000 years ago it was the home of a little-known order of Premonstratensian priests. They built an abbey, but strangely, they abandoned it in favour of a new location near Leiston. Eventually the ruins became a WW2 bunker.

Why did they leave? How much of the original abbey remains underground? Are rumours of their dealings with smugglers and pirates true? And is there any wartime evidence left? Come and dig with us to find out!

What’s so special about Minsmere?

DigVentures’ flagship excavation at Leiston Abbey is now complete, but it turns out, there’s a prequel to the story: before the priests set up home in Leiston, they spent several centuries living out in the wilds of Minsmere – it’s now time to investigate what they were doing there.

It’s a story that begins in 1182, when Suffolk’s one and only group of Premonstratensian priests settled on the coast near Minsmere. It wasn’t until 1363 that they moved to Leiston Abbey. This is the first time an archaeology project has attempted to unite the abbey and its original site, to understand how the life of a medieval community was split in two and forced to change by the landscape they inhabited, and how they chose to respond.

What will we be doing?

We’ll have two days to learn how to dig, and to unearth and record as much evidence as we can, all while learning hands-on about medieval archaeology and the fine art of fieldwork.


Our Dirty Weekends start with a rendez-vous and briefing at 8pm on Friday night. Excavation days begin at 8am, and we reconvene for dinner together in the evenings.

More information about the meeting point, and recommendations on where to stay, will be available a little closer to the time, but as a rough guide, we’ll be close Minsmere.

The Details

Dates: 17th and 18th September, with pre-meet on Friday 16th at 8pm

Cost: £325 (or £520 for two if you choose the Friends with Benefits option), which includes tuition, tools, tea/coffee, and a DigVentures t-shirt.

Rendezvous: 8pm Friday night, and 8am on Saturday and Sunday mornings (details of meeting points will be shared once you’ve made your booking, but they’ll both be close to Minsmere).

Food and accommodation

Food and accommodation is not included. We recommend that you bring packed lunches, and then join us in the local pub for dinner in the evening!

What if I want to dig for longer?

This excavation runs for two full weeks from 12th-25th September. If you can’t make the weekend, or would like to dig with us for longer, you’ll also be able to book yourself in for a day, a week or two full weeks very soon! Check back tomorrow for extra booking options.

Any questions?

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself in a real, live, in-progress excavation attempting to uncover one of Britain’s biggest mysteries. If you’ve got any questions about joining the team, email hello@digventures.com or call 0333 011 3990.

Want to share the experience?

Bring along a friend and get a 20% discount. All you have to do is select the ‘Friends With Benefits’ option when reserving your place.

Book now!