Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

Image by James D E Cross

Image by James D E Cross

A Visit to the Ice Age Brecks

Realising it was my last chance I grabbed the opportunity to attend Ice Age Brecks 3 on 21st May. This was the third and final of a series of Geology Day Schools presented by Norfolk Geodiversity Partnership, one of our Breaking New Ground project partners.

We started the day in Thetford with presentations by Norfolk Geodiversity’s Tim Holt-Wilson and Dr Peter Allen. The presentations covered several aspects of the effect of the last Ice Age on the Brecks. I learnt about the existence of the Bytham River  which had flowed from the South-West Midlands through the centre of East Anglia and east towards what is now the North Sea but then was land.

At one time the largest river in Britain, evidence such as flint tools suggest it was used by some the earliest humans in Britain, Homo heidelbergensis, ancestors of the Neanderthals. Its broad sandy banks provided a good travel route through the landscape. I’d never heard of the Bytham River and this is probably because it was destroyed by the Anglian Ice Sheet some 450 000 years ago. Traces of it remain and visiting some of these traces would be part of our field trips.

We boarded the coach and set off for Knettishall Heath where Tim and Peter took us to 3 sites demonstrating evidence of Ice Age effects on the Brecks. Both Tim and Peter were very knowledgeable and identified pebbles which had originated in Leicestershire and the Pennines before being carried to the Brecks by the now extinct river.

A quick stop at The Devils Punchbowl in Croxton followed, where my children used to play Capture the Flag when they were small. I made a note to tell them they had been running around a chalk solution hollow with fluctuating water levels.

Next stop, Frosts Common and Hockham Woods, a beautiful area dotted with many pingos. Tim and Peter led us through the woods to the site of the former Hockham Mere and Cranberry Rough, interpreting the landscape as we went. Hockham Mere was a large lake formed by the Anglian Ice Sheet but drained during the post-medieval period. Archaeological finds of flint tools and other evidence suggest human activity took place on the shores of this lake as early as the Paeoleolithic Era.

I’ve only been able to give a much abbreviated version of the day’s events. This was a most informative and educational event. I’ve learnt a lot about the effects of the Ice Age, which are all around us and done more online reading about the subject. I'll definaetly be returning to Frosts Common and Hockham woods for further exploration.