Welcome to the BFER newsletter
For those of us lucky enough to live in rural areas, the arrival of spring is heralded in a large part by an amazing sound; the Dawn Chorus. Every year at this time I am woken up at first light by a cacophony of riotous, joyous noise from our feathered friends, and it lifts my heart. Yes, it’s too early, and yes I need that extra hour or two of sleep, but despite that, every year, that joy of spring is infectious and seems to lift the cloak of winter, making me fall in love with this amazing landscape all over again.
My challenge to you this month is to set your alarm early, grab some warm clothes and a cup of tea, then find a nice spot with trees and shrubs nearby where birds will congregate, and where the rising sun will find you, and just enjoy…
Reconnecting with nature is a real theme for us in this scheme, as we work with our partners to provide new opportunities for people to benefit from nature, and the Brecks must be one of the best places in the country to do that.
In this month’s newsletter we’re celebrating just a few of the innovative opportunities for promoting health and wellbeing in Nature, including the Nature Therapy for Menopause programme, a number of amazing running events delivered by our partners Run Breckland, as well as fun events, activities and learning opportunities for all ages.
We’re also delighted to be supporting the Suffolk Walking Festival this month, with a number of walks taking place in the Brecks as part of the County wide festival. Read our volunteer blog below to find out more about a great walk in Brandon, or see our events listing for more details, and click here for a link to the Suffolk Walking Festival info: Suffolk Walking Festival – Over 70 walks. 13th-28th May 2023
Lastly, I’d like to encourage you to take part in No Mow May. This is Plantlife’s annual campaign calling all 23+million garden owners in the UK not to mow during May – liberating your lawns and providing a space for nature. It’s a great way to benefit wildlife in your garden, and all you have to do is not cut the grass! For more info visit: https://www.plantlife.org.uk/campaigns/nomowmay/
As ever, I hope you enjoy this month’s offerings, and that you do choose to take part in the wide variety of events and activities coming up.
BFER Scheme Manager
Noticing Nature on the Nine Stiles Walk
by Jude Clay
It can be easy to ignore the nature around us every day. It can be easy to sit at home and wish we could see orangutans in the jungles of Borneo, or dolphins swimming through a turquoise ocean, or even jewel-coloured hummingbirds flitting around voluptuous, tropical flowers. The reality for most of us though, is that we live in a slightly damp and chilly England and don’t have whole days or weeks to dedicate to going out to have animal adventures. Does that mean we should give up on wildlife-encounters altogether? Absolutely not. Sometimes, we just need to remember to practice noticing what is around us. Discover Suffolk have devised a walking loop just outside Brandon, that is the perfect, simple way for you to connect with nature again.
I walked this walk slowly, stopping constantly to take photographs and watch birds and stroke ponies (there were many!) and it took me exactly 2 hours. If you want a leisurely route for a weekend or have young children who are full of energy and curiosity, this is a great option.
And this is what I noticed:
To read more click here: https://brecks.org/volunteer-blog/guest-blog-noticing-nature-on-the-nine-stiles-walk/
2.2 – Tales from the River
Have you seen our latest exhibition on tour across the Brecks?
photo credit: Imogen Radford
The Tales from the Riverbank exhibition is on tour across the Brecks, currently at Watton Library till 5th May. This exhibition displays memories of swimming and other water based activities in the Brecks, curated by young historians from Ancient House Museum.
Check out the dates below to see if this exhibition is coming to a place near you!
Brandon Library – 9th to 22nd May
Lakenheath Library – 23rd May to 7th June
Brandon Heritage Centre – 9th June to July
If you would like more information, please get in touch: BFER.email@example.com
3.1 – Citizen Science: Testing the Water
Our Citizen Science project has been very busy the last couple of months and you may have seen our special newsletter which advertised some of these activities. One activity took place at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Thompson Common where we engaged with 16 volunteers and NWT staff to test 60 waterbodies on the reserve (including ponds, ditches and streams) for nutrient pollution.
The other activity last month included training local teachers on how to deliver their own water testing lesson to schools across the Brecks. The training took place at Admirals Academy in Thetford.
Freshwater Habitats Trust are also still looking for volunteers to take part in the Brecks Spawn Survey, please see below flyer for more information and how to take part.
|Watch our last Citizen Science video about the Damara School taking part in a water testing event at BTO Nunnery Lakes in Thetford.
4.4 – Healing Waters: Breathe in the Brecks
Beginning on International Women’s Day in March, and concluding six weeks later on Earth Day, BFER hosted a wellbeing program, Nature Therapy for Menopause. The programme, designed and delivered by Gina Geremia from Adaptable by Design, offered a series of guided wellbeing walks for those experiencing the symptoms of menopause. Each walk explored a different Brecks location, highlighting the diverse range of landscapes across the Brecks region, including its iconic ancient heathlands, and peaceful river corridors. Over the course of the series, the group explored Barnhamcross Common, Lakenheath Fen Nature Reserve, Nunnery Lakes Nature Reserve, West Stow Country Park, and the riversides of Brandon and Mildenhall. The programme focused upon nature therapy intervention, using forest bathing and other mindfulness activities to reconnect with nature, relieve menopausal symptoms, and restore a general sense of wellbeing. In addition to weekly group Saturday morning walks, each participant received a wellbeing guide and workbook, offering daily interventions to promote engagement with the natural world and enhance overall wellbeing.
The final session, taking place on April 22nd to mark Earth Day, included an opportunity for the group to give back to the landscape, taking part in a litter picking activity and collecting 3.6kg of litter. The session finished with a celebratory tea ceremony, and a delicious picnic of lemon drizzle cake in the spring sunshine.
From beginning to end this was magical experience. The bonds that were formed are unique and special and I truly believe that is down to all of us and the special space of the Brecks. It is this special natural space that opened up a new world for so many of us, embraced us and supported our journey toward building a deep relationship with ourselves, one another, and our natural home.
Gina Geremia, programme leader
4.5 – Volunteer & Engagement Programme
Wild about Thetford
On a wet, cold morning on the 6 April 2023, the ‘Wild About Thetford’ event with Thetford Town Council, still went ahead but was relocated from Thetford marketplace to the indoors of the Guildhall. The rain did not stop play or attendance, and over 60 adults and children came along to the drop-in session to enjoy and participate in the free family activities which included wild-crafts, egg decorating, making bird boxes and bird feeders. The session allowed participants to discover more, celebrate the nature and wildlife around them in the heart of the town whilst showing their creative and art and crafty skills off with the aid of Thetford Conservation Group, Wild for Woods, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, The Men in Sheds, Thetford Town Council, and BFER team. A terrific time was had by all.
All the activities were free of charge, with thanks to the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
- Are you interested in supporting your local wildlife?
- Want to know about future events?
- Want to discover more about volunteering opportunities with The Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme, and the Thetford Town Council Conservation Volunteers?
Keep an eye on the websites!
Wildlife workshops for home education
In April, BFER offered wildlife workshops for home educating families.
Families joined foraging and wild-craft enthusiast, Jon Tyler, at Two Mile Bottom Campsite to discover the history and properties of birch trees. The site, located adjacent to the Little Ouse River and surrounded by forest, was a perfect spot to explore. The group learnt about the uses of birch trees, tried their hand at birch crafts, made birch torches, sampled birch sap tea, as well as enjoying some bonus sightings of seasonal fungi.
Later in the month, families explored the beautiful site of Nunnery Lakes Reserve, with bird experts Nick Moran and Kate Fox, from the British Trust for Ornithology. The group spent a morning birdwatching, learning about local birdlife while meeting other likeminded young people. A key highlight was a prolonged sighting of a kingfisher, who paused long enough for the whole group to have a close look at its beautiful blue plumage through a telescope.
4.6 – 3rd Party Grant Fund
In Other News
After a recent meeting at Lakenheath Fen to review the new access improvements, and site for the new digital interpretation station, we thought we should visit some of the other key sites for nature in the scheme area to see how spring is taking hold in the Brecks.
As a team we went out in early April to look at some of our partner’s flagship sites to look at the benefits of previous projects, and discuss future opportunities, as well as introduce newer members of the team to some of those iconic species that make the area so special.
At our first stop at Weeting Heath where we were lucky enough to bump into the Warden, James Symonds, who very kindly gave us a guided tour, pointing out a couple of iconic Brecks Stone Curlew,
and showing the team the impact of recent ground disturbance projects, as well as the amazing Arable Weeds Plot, that contains a variety of super-rare types of speedwell including Veronica triphyllos (Fingered Speedwell), for more info visit: https://naturebftb.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Fingered-speedwell_FINAL_lowres-23.03.21.pdf . Also growing there successfully were Veronica praecox (Breckland Speedwell), and Veronica Verna (Spring Speedwell).
The second stop was at Lackford Lakes, to look at new access proposals, and discuss opportunities for supporting engagement activities for Health and Wellbeing, where we had the pleasure of seeing Marsh Harriers, and (we think) a pair of Goshawk tumbling through the air.
Both of these locations, and Lakenheath Fen, are well worth a visit at the moment, where you are very likely to be able to see something very special, and are guaranteed to have a memorable visit.
Brecks Farmers Wildlife Network