Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

Volunteers learn how to measure and record warren banks in Thetford Forest

Exciting New Research Project Begins

Unravelling the Mysteries of the Brecks’ Warrens and Lodges

On a slightly soggy Saturday in November, a large group of potential volunteers gathered at Oak Lodge in Thetford Forest.  The weather failed to dampen their enthusiasm to learn about the new and exciting research project, Brecks Warrens and Lodges, being run by The Breckland Society over the next six months. 

This project is being delivered as part of the ‘Breaking New Ground’ Heritage Lottery Funded Landscape Partnership Scheme for the Brecks.  It will look at unravelling the mysteries of enclosures on the warrens and the possible trapping banks, as well as exploring and recording warren lodge sites in detail. 

On this, the first training day, archaeologists from the Norfolk Historic Environment Service and from the Forestry Commission were on hand to explain how to record in the field and to carry out academic research. The project manager, Anne Mason, explained the history and significance of warrening in the Brecks, and how this new project would complement the award-winning report on mediaeval warrens published by The Breckland Society in 2010. It is hoped that this current research will reveal a mass of information, new to historians.

During the day, volunteers discovered how vital their research would be to the future preservation of the warren banks and lodge sites. They also learnt the value of old maps, how to relate them to the landscape, and how to access them online and at country records offices.

Archaeologists from the Norfolk Environment Service demonstrate how to survey Measuring poles, tape measures and surveying equipment, including a dumpy level (an optical instrument used to establish, or check points, in the same horizontal plane) were on hand for demonstrations and practical experience.  Volunteers will be able to borrow this equipment for the duration of the project. 

Volunteers who join the project can choose the focus of their research, with guidance from the project manager. They will then be sent a pack with a map of their warren, recording forms, and other documents. Volunteers also have the assurance that experts will be on hand to answer any queries.

Although wet, the enthusiasm of those who organized and ran the training day will surely have inspired the participants.  How many, expecting to learn about the warrens, thought they would also learn the basics of professional surveying?

Volunteer training for this research project will continue in January with a visit to the Norfolk Records Office.

Information about this and future projects to be undertaken by The Breckland Society may be found on or by emailing


Sue Pennell, Breckland Society Volunteer