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A Breckland Heath

A Breckland Heath

After the First World War the British Government kicked off a massive national drive to plant huge blocks of coniferous trees for secure supplies of home-grown timber.

The sweeping sandy heathlands of the Brecks were no use for farming, good only for grazing sheep and rabbits. But they were prime real estate for millions of trees. Planting began around Thetford, eventually transforming the open grasslands to huge tracts of forest. First cleared by prehistoric farmers, wild expanses of the original heathland are rare and very special to explore.

Of the 12,550 wildlife species in the Brecks, 30% are nationally rare and some can be found only on these unique heaths. Just over the border in Suffolk is Knettishall Heath, and Norfolk’s Brettenham Heath is a 200-hectare National Nature Reserve, on chalk bedrock, tens of metres thick, laid down during the Cretaceous period.

In some places the rock is close to the surface, breaking through the sandy soil. Where the soil is thicker it also becomes slightly more acidic, subtly changing the variety of plants and wildlife. This part of Norfolk was free of ice during the most recent glacial period resembling a treeless northern tundra or steppe. Part of a mosaic of heaths, forests and farmland, Brettenham is a beautiful place for a winter walk. And if you love Geology, head for the central and eastern part of the heath, where one of the country’s best examples of acid soil and polygons of chalk can be seen.


Brettenham Heath, Norfolk, UK

Getting There

Brettenham Heath is appealing to those who like large ‘unspoilt’ heaths with no crowds. The few vehicle tracks are not surfaced so are not suitable for less mobile people.
During the period November to February each year, visitors are very welcome to enter from the car park on foot and responsibly enjoy all parts of the heath. A series of kissing gates has been installed to allow access. However, outside of this period, during the breeding season much of Brettenham Heath is closed to the public. The western end remains open all year, but you are unable to walk from the car park through the nature reserve to reach this area. The reserve can be viewed from a public viewpoint along Peddars Way.


Sensory Experience






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