Famed for its dry, sandy landscape that conjured up visions of a wild desert to early travellers, the Brecks have been shaped by long human interaction with this marginal natural environment. Its very name commemorates the temporary fields that were ‘broken in’ from the area’s extensive heaths.
In March 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) confirmed the award of nearly £1.5million to the Breaking New Ground Landscape Partnership, enabling a £2.2m scheme (the largest of its kind in East Anglia) to deliver a range of exciting Heritage and Landscape Projects in the heart of the Brecks until June 2017.
The Brecks is a surprisingly large area in the heart of East Anglia with a unique landscape characterised by heathlands, sandy soils, pine lines and forest plantations (see right for The Brecks Landscape Character Assessment). Not only does this make the area look and feel different to other parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, it has meant that the way humans have lived and worked in the landscape throughout history has been very different.
‘Breaking New Ground’ provided the dynamic impetus to move this unique landscape from the margins of public awareness to the mainstream, connecting communities to the skills and understanding necessary to sustain its natural, archaeological and built heritage and enable them to explore and celebrate its distinctive features such as pine lines, flint buildings, forests and heaths. It sought to address the challenges presented by climate change, economic pressure, population growth and diversity and connect effective, integrated rural development with environmental excellence in this sensitive and special landscape.
We told the story of the Brecks landscape and celebrate its unique social history, landscape character and the myriad of rare and unusual specialist plants, insects, birds and other species that make their home here.
With the wide range of partners involved in the scheme Breaking New Ground delivered more than 37 projects across 4 areas of work:
A Home to Many
Working to improve areas for the benefit of wildlife, so our special species can continue to thrive.
A Window to the Past
Linking communities to the area’s rich history and heritage, by bringing the stories of the past to life and making new discoveries.
A Place to Explore
Improving access to The Brecks, both physical and digital, in a number of exciting ways.
A Future for All
Raising knowledge, understanding and appreciation of The Brecks area through education and skills training.
Whilst Breaking New Ground was required by HLF to deliver its projects within an agreed core area (231km2 focused around the Brecks market towns of Thetford and Brandon), many of the projects were specifically devised to ensure that their benefits, and opportunities for participation and training will be available to everyone across the full 1,029km2 of the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks, and beyond.
The scheme was hosted by Suffolk County Council at Brandon Country Park and supported by Norfolk County Council, St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council as well as a host of other organisations including Natural England, English Heritage, RSPB, Forestry Commission, University of East Anglia, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, The Breckland Society, Farm Conservation, Iceni Botanical Artists, Green Light Trust, Plantlife, Norfolk Geodiversity Partnership, Orchard Barn Environmental Education, and Ancient House Museum.
A future for the Partnership
As a result of the legacy development work carried out during BNG, the partnership agreed to develop a follow-up application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and focus on a new landscape within the Brecks – The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers. An expression of interest was well received and the partnership was encourage to submit a new proposal, which it did in June 2017.