Skip to content

BFER April Newsletter 2023

View this email in your browser Download as a PDF BFER NEWSLETTER April 2023 Welcome to the BFER newsletter Welcome again to the BFER monthly newsletter. As always it’s a great way to catch up on what we’ve been doing, as well as reflecting on what else is happening in the area, and what exciting […]

April 2023

Welcome to the BFER newsletter

Welcome again to the BFER monthly newsletter. As always it’s a great way to catch up on what we’ve been doing, as well as reflecting on what else is happening in the area, and what exciting events and engagement opportunities we have coming up.

It’s been great to see some recognition for the Brecks in the press this month. Local papers have picked up on the BBC Wildlife Magazine citing Norfolk as one of the top 15 places to see wildlife in the world! It was great to see the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks picked out as one of the highlights. Well done to all those organisations and people working so hard to protect and enhance that amazing resource.

Norfolk among world’s best places for wildlife holiday | Eastern Daily Press (

With that in mind, I’m told that Stone Curlew have already returned to the Brecks this spring, so I’d recommend a trip out to NWT’s Weeting Heath, one of the best places in the UK to see this iconic Brecks Species. Weeting Heath – Norfolk Wildlife Trust. We’ll be taking a look later this week.

It’s also great to see the Brecks getting a plug on the Norfolk Pathmakers website in a blog by Nicole, our Volunteer and Engagement Officer. We are delighted to be working alongside them to improve access to the Norfolk Countryside for people of all abilities and backgrounds.  The Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme – Pathmakers

Once again, I hope you enjoy reading all about our activities below, and welcome any contribution to future editions.

BFER Scheme Manager

Guest Blog: What the Brecks means to me

A Year in the Brecks: Reflections of a Nature Writer – Jude Clay

I have lived almost a year in the Brecks. I arrived in late Spring, and it is now early Spring. As humans, we tend to think of ourselves as cut off from nature and its seasons: we can buy apples and aubergines and raspberries all year round, we can put the heating on when it’s cold and the lights on when it’s dark. But, each season I have seen in the Brecks has reminded me of how connected we still are to the seasons. No matter how much trade and technology has changed us, we are still affected by the seasons and the weather and that is a good thing.

Spring brings us birdsong. And, with it, joy and hope.
Last Spring, I was part of a research project that took me into the forest most days at dawn. As the sun’s first light beamed through the trees, I was chasing blush-coloured chaffinches through the branches. The forest floor is sandy, and the tree roots go deep so the trees grow tall. The chaffinches perch high, often out of sight, and sing their hearts out to protect their territories. Turf wars break out above our heads and, to us, they sound beautiful.

Then, as spring begins to turn to summer, dusky evenings bring night-time magic. The nightjars wake up in their forest clearings, their deep churring trying to attract a mate. They launch from trees and perform acrobatics in the air to catch insects for their supper. Sometimes, nightjars pull their wings so fast through the darkness that a whip-crack echoes round the clearing. They flit among the bats of all different sizes and, sometimes, a silent barn owl, like a ghostly moth, on a hunt.

In Summer, the sandy soil means Breckland is hot. Hotter than most places in the UK despite its shady trees. Summer is the season of the swimmer here. I have never lived anywhere quite like it. Before and after work, the rivers and the lakes were fringed with people, rippled all over with the strokes of sun-weary arms and legs. Here, we live alongside the natural world too – the squiggle of a grass-snake under the clear water, fist-sized freshwater clams children scoop out of the water, the great crested grebe on her nest in a raft of lilies, the emerald flit of the damselflies across the surface.

Autumn brings the longed-for rain. Norfolk is the driest county in the UK but I didn’t know, before I came here, what that meant. The ground was cement-hard, the grass like straw. For weeks we put dishes of water out in the garden, watched the birds and hedgehogs struggle to forage.
Thetford is the town of the hedgehog. Never have I seen so many. They struggled when the ground was baked solid. Many hedgehogs failed to find enough food to put on the weight they need for hibernation. And, as the days became suddenly colder, it was no surprise we found a hypothermic hedgehog on our garden path.

But, at last, the rain came. Our pond refilled and the grass became green and the earth soft.

Then Winter. The starlings and their murmurations wrote hieroglyphics across the sky and the tiny muntjac deer barked between frosted trees. We welcome many visitors to the fens in winter, as our feathered Scandinavian and Russian friends settle in the rich feeding grounds. The silver-backed, maroon-headed Pochard is my favourite. A gorgeous little duck, they dive right under the water to feed, so you can only see two whirlpools on the surface where their feet are furiously paddling.

The winter was when I first met one of Breckland’s most special residents too – one I had tried all year to see without success. If Norfolk is the county of freshwater, this animal is most at one with the terrain – the otter. It was the first day of the year when she swam down the middle of the river beside me, chomping on a fish and arcing her strong, supple body through the water again and again.

And seeing the otter clarified my thoughts on it all; on Breckland through the seasons. Miriam Darlington, in her book Otter Country, calls otters the spirit level. She explains that the presence of otters in UK rivers is a sign of their health – is a sign that we humans are living in the correct balance with nature in that place.

For me, the Brecks is a place where wildlife is so prominent that humans feel compelled to find a way to live with it. It’s certainly not perfect but, more than any other place I have lived, Breckland is the place where humans are most evidently a part of the natural world rather than at odds with it.

Would you like to write a guest blog for our newsletter viewed by over 1000 people, then please get in touch.

Project Focus

2.2 – Tales from the River

Tales from the Riverbank Exhibition has started its tour of the Brecks

This exhibition tells an engaging story of river recreation in Thetford and nearby over the last century. It is in Thetford Library until 8 April, Watton Library from 12 April, then will be touring libraries and other venues in the Brecks. It was curated by young people in the Ancient House Museum history clubs using oral history accounts, photos and historic and new material gathered by Tales from the River project volunteers. There are six pop-up panels, with stories and images of swimming, fishing, boating festivals and other fun water-related activities. The project is collecting and celebrating river stories from across the Brecks, and is keen to hear from anyone with memories, photos, or tales to tell. More on the project and collecting stories: Watch the film that complements the exhibition, also made by the young historians, on YouTube: See a fun walk through video,, and see the exhibition online, Contact Imogen Radford, project lead,, to find out more or if you have a venue or event that might like to host the exhibition.

3.1 – Citizen Science: Testing the Water
On a bright morning on the 23rd of March, Anne Carter from Freshwater Habitats Trust, met with six teachers and 10 pupils from The Damara School at BTO Nunnery Lakes, for a Water Testing Event. The aim of the session was to collect water samples and connect individuals with the Brecks and the local environment.
The day started with an informative powerpoint presentation on the importance of clean water to wildlife and people, and what pollutes water. Armed with enthusiasm and wellies, everyone went outside to collect water samples around the site. After collecting numerous samples, these were bought back for testing as a class activity, using the latest cutting-edge monitoring technology which tests the water for pollution (nitrate and phosphate), using quick and easy nutrient testing kits.The day ended with muddy wellies and well-informed individuals knowing how to collect and test water, the relevance of data collection, and the subsequent contribution to a “bigger picture”. A great, albeit tiring! day out was had by all.

4.4 – Healing Waters: Breathe in the Brecks

On March 8th, we celebrated International Women’s Day by launching a brand-new wellbeing programme, Nature Therapy for Menopause. The programme, delivered by Nature Therapist Gina Geremia, will take place over seven weeks, exploring the beautiful landscapes of the Brecks through a series of guided forest bathing walks. Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a wellbeing practice that emerged from Japan in the 1980s, involving gentle nature-immersive walking.
This wellbeing programme is being delivered for women experiencing symptoms of menopause. The group are meeting weekly to take part in guided forest bathing walks, each week exploring a different Brecks location. Each walk offers opportunities to form deeper connections with nature, as well as enhancing personal and social wellbeing. In addition, the participants have each received a wellbeing guide and workbook, which offers a 30-day series of daily invitations to engage with the natural world and enhance personal wellbeing.
So far, the group have explored Brecks heathlands, wetlands, nature reserves, and riversides, at Barnhamcross Common, RSPB Lakenheath Fen Nature Reserve, Nunnery Lakes Nature Reserve, and West Stow Country Park. The series will conclude on April 22nd on Earth Day.

Healing Waters event coming up in summer – swim intro for youth groups

2 July 2023 – Introduction to outdoor swimming: have a go, learn how to be safe and have fun.

Sessions for youth or children’s groups with their leaders, to give the chance to come and try swimming in a fun and friendly session with lifeguards and to learn more about doing it safely. We can include groups of any age as we hope to hold this at Lynford Water, which is perfect with its sandy shallow edge beach and lovely clean water (subject to authorisation from Forestry England).

More details,

Get in touch with Imogen Radford to find out more and apply for your group to come along.

4.5 – Volunteer & Engagement Programme

Flying machines and reed rafts were created at RSPB Lakenheath Fen Nature Reserve at our family workshop, Air Gliders and River Floaters. Families explored the site, learning about its natural resources, and discovering wild-craft techniques to create natural boats and gliders.
Attendees of our workshops, Flower Trays for Mother’s Day, explored Brandon Country Park, collecting wind-blown sticks, and using willow weaving to create ‘storm basket’ style tension trays.

Volunteer training: BFER delivered a volunteer upskilling training workshop for Thetford Town Council’s Conservation Volunteer group. The group worked with experienced wild-craft and foraging enthusiast Jon Tyler, to learn how to re-use natural resources (including those usually discarded through conservation land management) in wild-craft activities. The group learnt to make a range of craft makes including miniature boats and rafts, willow hoops, and postcards collages, skills which they can use in the future to run their own events and activities. If you would like to work with BFER to support your volunteer group in the Brecks, contact our Volunteer and Engagement Officer, Nicole Hudson:

BFER Winter Talks
BFER’s series of Winter Talks concluded at the start of March with a talk from Dr Ross Piper, Bugs in the Brecks. In the talk, attendees discovered more about the fascinating and intricate lives of insects, looking at a range of macro photographs and learning more about those species found in the Brecks.
Very informative – really important to have events like this where the speaker manages to instil a sense of wonder about e.g insects so that we value them more’ Attendee feedback
The series also included talks by Brecks snorkeller Nicola Crockford, and historian Richard Hoggett. Nicola Crockford shared her experiences of open water swimming and snorkelling in Brecks rivers, while Richard Hoggett marked the centenary of the opening of the burial chamber of Tutankhamun by discussing the life and work of Egyptologist, Howard Carter.

4.6 – 3rd Party Grant Fund

Apply now for our 3rd Party Grant Fund – Up to £2,500 Funding Available!

We are looking for communities and organisations to apply for our 3rd Party Grant Fund

If you are interested & would like to learn more, visit:…

In Other News

We are pleased to offer a FREE teacher training session provided by Freshwater Habitats Trust to schools in the Brecks area. This session will provide teachers with the information to run their own water testing lesson and to teach children about their local freshwater habitats.

The session will take place at Admirals Academy on Wednesday 19th April from 4:30pm to 6pm.

If you are interested in attending, please contact:

March saw the publication of Plant Atlas 2020. It is arguably is the most in-depth survey of the British and Irish flora ever undertaken, and builds on two previous plant distribution atlases published by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland in the twentieth century. Plant Atlas 2020 will serve as an essential resource for the study and conservation of our wild plants and their vitally important habitats for decades to come. You can find out more here: Plant Atlas 2020 – Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (

Thousands of botanists spent 20 years recording wild and naturalised plants across Britain and Ireland. They collected more than 30 million records which fed into the Plant Atlas 2020 website, book and summary reports.

A summary of results can be found here:

Q pathmakers

The Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme. – by Nicole Hudson

The landscapes of Norfolk are incredibly diverse; from the panoramic beaches of the north coast to the labyrinth of reed-lined waterways of the Broads, the bustling hubbub of Norwich city centre, to the expansive flat marshes of the east towards Great Yarmouth. However, it is the west of the county that draws the focus of this blog, as well as that of the region’s leading conservation, wildlife, and heritage organisations.

The Brecks is a landscape that covers an area of 393 sq. miles/1019 sq. kilometres, spanning over west Norfolk and northwest Suffolk. Iconic for its heathlands, forests, and lines of crooked pine trees, for many, the Brecks may only be familiar as the view from a vehicle when crossing the county. However, those who have explored the Brecks will attest to the beauty and intrigue of this diverse landscape.

What is the Brecks?

The name ‘Brecks’ originates from a 1926 publication of W.G. Clarke’s book In Breckland Wilds. ’Brecks’ was a term referring to temporary fields that were cultivated for a few years, before being allowed to revert to natural heathland. The Brecks itself comprises of low fertility sandy and chalky soils, and for centuries this was managed through shifting arable farming, sheep grazing and rabbit warrening. Described by an observer in the 1760s as ‘a mere African desert’, the Brecks was frequently subjected to sandstorms, including one which engulfed the village of Santon Downham in 1668. The iconic Brecks ‘pine lines’ that we see today silhouetted against the broad sky, are…

Read more here: The Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme – Pathmakers

Events & Activities Helper: Join BFER this spring and summer and assist at an exciting range of events and activities! From guided wildlife walks observing bats, birds, butterflies, and plant life, to a range of expert led talks, wild-craft workshops, community runs, wellbeing walks, and much more. Learn new skills, explore the landscapes of the Brecks, meet wildlife and heritage experts, and be part of a friendly and welcoming team.

Volunteers assist BFER by helping to greet and talk to members of the public, welcoming attendees, sharing information about BFER projects, and helping to collect participant feedback. Volunteers can also choose to get involved with hands on activities, such as craft workshops, and tail walking guided walks. All volunteers receive training and support as required, and volunteering can be carried out on a flexible basis.

See our list of upcoming events on to get a feel for the types of events that you may be able to help with.

If you would like to join BFER to support our events and activities, we’d love to hear from you:

Volunteer with us!

We are looking for volunteers to join us, see a list of our current opportunities:

BFER Blogger Volunteer – BFER is launching a new blog as part of its website and is seeking Blogging Volunteers to assist in writing engaging articles and content. BFER will use blog posts to reach both new and existing audiences. The BFER Blog will report on the diverse range of exciting heritage, wildlife, wellbeing, and art projects and events taking place across the BFER scheme.

BFER PR & Social Media Volunteer – We are looking for a driven PR & Social Media Volunteer to attract and interact with new and existing audiences. Volunteers should have a solid understanding of how each social media channel works and how to optimize content so that it is engaging on those channels.

BFER Video Editor Volunteer – Can you create and edit videos suitable for websites and social media? We are looking for a video editors to help create, edit and deliver content for our social media platforms, YouTube and Website.

BFER Events & Activities Helper – Events and Activities Helpers assist with one-off BFER events and activity opportunities throughout the year. Participants of these events hugely benefit from and value their interactions with volunteers. Volunteers serve as a ‘friendly face’ representing BFER: engaging visitors and participants, and generally being warm and helpful.

If you are interested in any of the above volunteer roles, please get in touch:

West Stow Country Park at looking for volunteers!

If you are interested contact West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village

Our Partners below are recruiting volunteers for a variety of exciting projects in the Brecks:

Bush Adventures UK – Events Volunteers and Garden Volunteers

Charles Burrell Museum – Front of House Volunteer, Main Display Area Guide, Café Staff and Engine Specific Volunteer

Tales from the River – Research Volunteer

Run Breckland  Volunteer Marshals

Little Ouse Headwaters Project (LOHP) – Practical Conservation Volunteer

The Icknield Way Association – Officers and Wardens

The River Lark Catchment Partnership – Volunteer Opportunities

Thetford Town Council – Conservation Volunteers

For more information on the opportunities visit:

If you are recruiting volunteers in the Brecks area and would like to advertise your opportunities here, please email:

Upcoming Events

We are really excited to share with you some of the wonderful outdoor events and activities that are in the pipeline.

BFER Events

Events in April:

Join Run Breckland this spring for their upcoming running events in the Brecks. Whether you’re an experienced runner, or just starting out, Run Breckland’s events are open to all.

30th April: Challenge yourself and take part in Run Breckland’s Euston Marathon / Half Marathon this April. Running through the grounds of the Euston Estate, all runners will receive a bespoke medal at the finish line.

Yoga and mindfulness for exam stress
Children and young people studying for exams are being invited to join free yoga and mindfulness sessions this Easter holidays at West Stow Country Park. Each session will offer tips and techniques to help manage exam stress and anxiety, including yoga, and breathing techniques.
Wednesday 5th April, West Stow Country Park
Yoga & Mindfulness for SATS exams, 11am-12.30pm
Yoga & Mindfulness for GCSE, A-level and College exams: 2pm-3.30pm

Wild About Thetford: Spring Edition: 6th April 10am – 1pm
Go wild this Easter with free family activities celebrating nature. Make and decorate bird boxes, make wild-craft nests, create tasty treats for birds to eat, decorate eggs, and discover more about Thetford’s wildlife.

For more information on the events & to book: Click here to view our events page

Do you have an event you would like us to promote on our newsletter, on our website, or across our social media pages?

Please complete the form for us to share your event:

Event detail form

Social Media
Are you following us on social media? Click the icons below to follow us!




Are you subscribed to us on YouTube?

We will be creating more video content this year so make sure to subscribe to us on YouTube and hit the notification bell!

While we are out filming videos for you, you can watch our latest video here:

Copyright © *|CURRENT_YEAR|* *|LIST:COMPANY|*, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
*|HTML:LIST_ADDRESS_HTML|* *|END:IF|*Want to change how you receive these emails?
You canupdate your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.*|IF:REWARDS|* *|HTML:REWARDS|* *|END:IF|*