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BFER Newsletter October 2023

Welcome to the October newsletter from the BFER team! Our first truly co-created team produced newsletter (now that our Project Support Officer has left)


October 2023

Welcome to the BFER newsletter

Welcome to the October newsletter from the BFER team! Our first truly co-created team produced newsletter (now that our Project Support Officer has left), so we hope you’ll forgive any typos, omissions or other errors as we go it ‘alone’!
It’s been another busy month across the partnership as you’ll see from some of the highlight outlined below, and the sheer amount of project delivery activities, and engagement events continues to astound me as I prepare to write our 3rd quarter report for our NLHF funders.
On top of our regular delivery, it’s always great to add on extra outputs and new things that perhaps weren’t on the radar when we put this scheme together, and one of those came to fruition this month in the form of the 360° tour of Ancient House Museums Vikings on your Doorstep exhibition. those of you that follow us on social media will know that we have our own 360° camera that we take out and about form time to time, but this is a whole new, high-tech, and very smart digital resource that has effectively saved this wonderful exhibition for us to enjoy in perpetuity. I’m hoping it will be the first of many.
I’m also delighted to introduce this month’s guest blog from Dr John Urquhart, who’s contribution is the result of a chance encounter on the banks or the River Lark, and a great conversation about the river, conservation, and volunteering.
As always, I hope you enjoy reading our latest offering, and welcome any thoughts and comments for future editions

BFER Scheme Manager

In this months edition


Guest Blog

A River Keeper’s Year: Chalk, Autumn, and Winter

by Dr John Urquhart

(Image credit: John Urquhart)

“We are, I suppose, river keepers, of sorts; my wife April, my other best friend Kerry, and me. Volunteers, it goes without saying, and largely self-taught. I lean on the writings of Simon Cooper and the knowledge of a river keeper friend in Dorset. Simon’s book is an authoritative handbook of river management woven into a charming narrative.
People we meet think of us first as fishermen, however, as we are always happy to explain, the greater part of our time on the river is spent not fishing it, but, rather, caring for it. Put simply, there would be no viable river without volunteers within organisations like our own river syndicate, The Wild Trout Trust, The Brecks: Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership, and the Lark Valley Catchment Partnership, nor without the support of the Environment Agency and Anglian Water. Much funding comes, directly or otherwise, from the Heritage Lottery Fund. We like to moan and criticise, but these are people trying their best with limited resources.
The river in question is one of the very few, perhaps only 220, chalk streams in the world, almost all of which are found in England. This one, the river Lark, has been first abused and then neglected; used as a navigation in the 19th century, then dredged in an act of environmental vandalism in the 20th in a completely unsuccessful attempt at flood mitigation. Dredging makes flooding worse. I’ll explain.”…

To read the full blog post, click here: A River Keeper’s Year: Chalk, Autumn, and Winter

Project Focus

Project 1.5 Ghost Pingo excavation

A pingo is carefully extracted under the watchful eye of professionals

In August 2023 four ghost pingos were excavated on two separate privately owned landholdings in the Brecks close to Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Thompson Common nature reserve. This follows on from the successful excavation of 10 ghost pingos on Norfolk Wildlife Trust owned Watering Farm between 2020 and 2022. The excavations were overseen by a group of experts, including from Norfolk Ponds Project, University College London and Norfolk Wildlife Trust, and included conservationists and geologists. The work builds on learnings from the previous excavations and focusses on excavating material from the ponds to re-expose sediment and seeds layers within the pingo. It is hoped that these will then germinate and could allow the pingo to quickly re-establish with a wide range of plant species. Following excavation, the restored pingos are surveyed for plants and invertebrates the following summer, and all of the learnings will be recorded in guidance at the end of the project to assist further future restorations.

Read more about the ghost pingos, and see further images on our website:

Project 1.6 
Managing the Margins
Scything and Grassland Management

August and September offered a chance for individuals and groups to participate in a scything course in partnership with Norfolk Rivers Trust. The courses offered the opportunity to learn and practice traditional heritage crafts in order to restore meadows and wildflower habitats. The teaching of these time-honoured skills hold the promise of profound benefits, not only to our local communities, but also for the wildlife that shares our environment. These skills will be able to be used to create a lasting legacy of sustainable meadow management through the sharing and practice of these skills and knowledge.

Read more about this project and see further images on our website

Project 4.2 
Celebrating Brecks Heritage
Viking Exhibition 360° Tour

As part of our ongoing work to ensure that our partner’s hard work is accessible to all, and continues to provide a long-lasting resource, we have teamed up with Vortex Visual Ltd. and Ancient House Museum, to create an amazing 360° tour of the Museum’s recent ‘Vikings on your Doorstep’ exhibition, which ended after a year-long run earlier this summer.

A fascinating new addition to our website, this tour allows you to walk around the exhibition from the comfort of your home (or anywhere else), and view the exhibits, artefacts, and interpretation materials, including a number of supporting seminars and documents such as the Breckland Society’s River Raiders report. Artifacts found in the Brecks, and on display were gathered from all over the country and some were loaned by the British museum. They and included high value items such as coins, gold jewellery, broaches, stirrups and swords, as well as everyday goods such as gaming pieces, pins and pottery.

This online resource means that a temporary exhibition is now accessible in perpetuity, and those who were not able to make to Ancient House Museum to see it live, including schools and students of our Viking history, can now do so at their leisure.

Click here to view the 360° Degree tour: 

Events Update: Hidden History of West Stow Country Park

On a bright day in September, Bob Morgan our BFER volunteer went to the beautiful setting that is West Stow Country Park, and joined a few others to take part in a guided Hidden History walk.

Walking a distance of two and a quarter miles and over 5000 steps, Bob said that although he had done the walk around the park many times previously, there was still more that he didn’t realise was ‘hidden’ in the park and much that he learnt about especially about the Cherry Tree Lock. He was also fortunate enough to see this beautiful comma butterfly (above) 🥰 WOW!

Further events like these can be found below, on our website (, and through social media (@TheBrecksLP), so keep an eye out for the lovely walks you can engage in, on the crisp autumnal days that are fast approaching.

4.5 – Volunteer & Engagement Programme

We celebrated the start of September with a special event at West Stow Country Park, showcasing the natural bounty of edible plants in the harvest season. The event was led by wildlife enthusiast and Bush craft practitioner, Jon Tyler, who guided a group on a gentle stroll through the Country Park. During the walk, participants discovered a variety of edible fungi, aromatic salad leaves, juicy plums, barley, blackberries and more. The walk followed the West Stow Country Park Nature Trail, before walking along the sun dappled riverside of the River Lark (where brave participants had a go at sampling nettles!). The group then settled in West Stow’s Bush Craft area in a wooded glade, where they sampled a tasty menu of food cooked by Jon on a camping stove. What was on the menu?

Aperitif: A homemade blackberry and cinnamon shrub (a drink made from blackberry, cinnamon, and honey infused cider vinegar)
Main: A chickpea flour pancake with wild garlic, fat hen (which the group learnt was traditionally used in the place of spinach), and a mushroom that the group foraged during the walk*
Dessert: Blackberry Welsh cakes

Find out more about our exciting upcoming events below, or visit:

*All foraging was conducted under the supervision and advice of the group leader, who is an experienced forager. We recommend that foraging should not be conducted unless you are experienced and confident in the identification of plants and fungi.

Spotlight on Volunteering

Thetford Town Council’s Craft Group is a friendly volunteer group based at The Guildhall, Thetford. The group offers opportunities for volunteers to meet weekly for a drop-in morning session of crafting, while socialising and enjoying the treats on offer in the Guildhall café. The group are currently working on a series of three textile panels for the BFER project. Using their combined skills in needlework, knitting, crochet, and other forms of craft, the group are creating river scenes to celebrate their local rivers, the Little Ouse, and the Thet. The first panel was exhibited at Thetford Library earlier this year, and the second panel (a section of which is pictured above) is nearing completion.
Stay tuned to to find out more about the progress of this beautiful artwork and how to view it once completed.
Would you like to join the group to get involved, learn new skills, and meet new people?
Visit out Volunteer Hub to find out more.

Join a fun and welcoming community of volunteers with Run Breckland and volunteer as a marshal at their upcoming autumn events!
Run Breckland is a charitable organisation based in the Brecks, that organises community running events. Volunteer Marshals are key to helping create a welcoming feeling at each event. Tasks include assisting to set up, welcome and cheer on participants, mark routes, hand out medals, and assist with time keeping.
With a fantastic programme of upcoming events in beautiful locations, find out more about how to get involved on our BFER Volunteer Hub  or get in touch with Run Breckland at:

The American Library, Norfolk Library and Information Service, and Norfolk Museums Service are running a Collection Day in partnership with the Their Finest Hour project (organised by Oxford University). Volunteers are wanted to help at this Collection Day, which will be held at Thetford Library, Saturday 21st October 2023, and with some work that may take place following the event to digitise the items, documents and oral histories collected. Volunteer tasks will include welcoming and talking to visitors, documenting information and stories, digitising (taking photos of) World War II objects, and helping to upload the information captured onto the Their Finest Hour Online Archive. Find out more and how to get involved on our Volunteer Hub.

Upcoming Events

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

BFER Events

Walk Norfolk 2023
BFER are pleased to be partnering with Pathmakers to host a range of autumn ambles as part of this year’s Walk Norfolk Festival. Following the festival’s successful launch in 2022, this year’s programme is full of fantastic opportunities to get out and about and explore the beautiful landscapes of Norfolk. In the Brecks, we are hosting four fabulous guided walks. Follow the links below to find out more or visit for the full festival programme.

12th October: Fungi, Fruits and Seeds Riverside Walk, Thetford, (AM and PM walks)
20th October: Shinrin-Yoku: Forest Bathing in the Brecks, Barnhamcross Common
25th October: Thetford’s River Tales: Work and Play family walk, Thetford

Discover the fascinating history and wildlife of the Brecks at our autumn guided walks, and get creative at our upcoming seasonal workshops:

21st October, Chalk Pebble & Acorn cup lights workshop, West Stow Country Park
Try out nature crafts inspired by some of our ancient ancestors! Learn how to shape your own unique candle holder from a chalk pebble using carving tools.

12th November, Discover Brandon’s River History, Guided River History Walk, Brandon
Hear stories about swimming, fishing, boating and having fun in the rivers, as well as seeing sites of Brandon’s trading and industrial history.

18th November, Lantern making and Twilight walk, Brandon Country Park
Mark the changing of seasons with a celebration of light at our special lantern making family workshop.

Get active this autumn! Whether a walker, jogger, or runner, Run Breckland’s events are fun and welcoming for all levels of experience, and a great opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Brecks.  

(Photo Credit: Geoff Herschell)

22nd October, Sapiston 10k and 5k Trail Runs, commencing at Honington & Sapiston Village Hall

26th November, Breckland Forest 10k Run, commencing at Santon Downham Village Hall

Other events in the Brecks

Thetford in the First World War Family Event – Ancient House Museum
On 24 October 2023    Bookable slots from 10am to 4pm

Find out about life in Thetford during the First World War and surprising role Thetford’s riverside  industries played in the war effort.
Book your ticket here:


14th October, The Roman Roads of east Anglia–Lidar Discoveries, Davies Memorial Hall, Herringswell
A talk by Dr David Ratledge on recent historic Lidar discoveries in East Anglia, hosted by The Icknield Way Association. Free admission. PLEASE NOTE: Space is limited so anyone wishing to attend must contact the Association’s Publicity Officer, Doug Landman by email at as soon as possible.

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

Online (ZOOM) event in partnership with Ancient House Museum, Thetford
Thursday 5 October 2023  7.30pm to 8pm How Coffee Has Changed Our World for Good  –
Mark Pendergrast
Find out how Coffee Has Changed Our World for Good.
For centuries, coffee has enlivened conversations, inspired revolutions, caused slavery, been an avatar for human rights, both destroyed and saved the environment and endangered species, been accused of being a poison, and hailed as a cure-all.

Hear Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds, sum it all up.

To find out more about this event

To book a place:

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

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