Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

Photo: Tangram Theatre

Photo: Tangram Theatre

Highlights from 2016

2016 has been a year of change across the world but here in the Brecks, we have been continuing to work with all our partners to engage people and encourage them to appreciate this wonderful but often unappreciated landscape. So let’s take a look at some of the highlights from 2016 and a glimpse of what lies ahead for the future…

January: NBIS ran a weekend ‘Bug Sorting Marathon’ where volunteers learnt how to identify various families of invertebrates, 60 pots of critters were sorted by 30 volunteers in 16 hours! There was a fantastic exhibition of artwork and poetry from various BNG projects at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds and huge diggers roaming across Brandon heath, removing topsoil as part of the ‘Ground Disturbance’ project. It sounds damaging but this work actually encourages many of the rare species in the Brecks to colonise and flourish.

February: Ronald Rule, who grew up opposite the Engine House at Brandon Country Park, which is being restored as part of the HLF funded scheme, visited the park. He brought photos from his childhood showing the buildings in use, a fascinating insight to the history of this forgotten building. He regaled stories of him and his siblings playing in the forest and of his mother starting the old Ruston and Hornsby engine!

March: After the success of ‘Big Brecks Fest’ at West Stow Country Park last year, as a legacy of that project, West Stow have committed to funding the event into the future. On Easter weekend, lots of people came down to take part in craft activities and witness the global premiere of ‘Beastly Brecks’, the educational drama piece performed by Tangram Theatre, all about the history and animals of the Brecks and the threats they face into the future.

Photo: Alex Brenner

April: 4 community grant fund projects approved, including the rebuilding of ancient flint walls at West Stow church and Culford School, a set of historical tours of the Brecks and interpretation panel and bird feeders installed at Thetford Station. Stone Curlew were tagged with GPS tags to monitor their movements around the Brecks. Early results indicate that they preferred areas of recently disturbed ground ahead of anything else, which is very exciting news!

Photo: Rob Hawkes

May: Work placements for local people looking for careers in nature or heritage conservation were underway. Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Green Light Trust and RSPB have all taken on BNG placements this year. Jake Blade was learning conservation management skills and leading volunteer groups for the whole summer at Knettishall Heath with Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

June: The final ‘Forest Fest’ event took place at Brandon Country Park with over 800 people coming along, many of whom for the first time. There was a lot of amazing footage from this year’s Wings Over the Brecks nest cameras. Stone curlew chicks playing at Weeting Heath along with goshawks feeding their brood in Thetford forest, it’s wonderful to see these rare glimpses into their elusive existences.

Photo: Forestry Commission

July: The schools tour of Beastly Brecks came to an end, along with several highly entertaining performances at Latitude Festival! There was an Archaeological Finds Day and uncovered a set of 3 polished flint axe heads which had been sat in a shed for years!

August: Brandon Country Park transformed into the ‘Enchanted Forest’, a free event for families which saw record numbers of attendees. There were story tellers, drummers, craftspeople, all with activities for everyone to have a go at something new. It was a hugely successful day!

September: The Warrener’s Tales film was completed, a docudrama charting the history of Thetford Warren Lodge. Translated versions, education packs and ‘making of’ movies were also produced and will be a fantastic resource for local schools and the community for years to come.

October: West Stow Country Park hosted ‘Enchanted Heath’, installing a new ‘Beowulf and Grendel’ trail through the grounds which was lit up spectacularly. The People’s History project hit the road to interview Martin who had received his early training in Thetford but now lives in the New Forest and the ‘Journal of Brecks Studies’ editorial panel was convened and issued a call for papers.

November: The Brecks Military History project came to an end, after months of volunteer research, the team published their final report in advance of Armistice Day. After a year, the fantastic Flint Rocks exhibition at Ancient House Museum in Thetford came to an end too.

December: Some projects are still running full steam ahead, such as the Brecks From Above project, which is putting on aerial photography training sessions to identify archaeological features and there will be plenty more opportunities to get involved before BNG comes to an end next year.

Photo: Grimes Graves (Norfolk Historic Environment Service)

It has been a busy year but work is underway to ensure the Brecks still has a structure in place to deliver these kinds of projects into the future for the benefit of the local communities. Partners have agreed to continue aspects of their work as a legacy of Breaking New Ground and early proposals are being heard to form part of a new landscape partnership scheme within the Brecks. It’s an exciting time to be in the Brecks and the team wishes everyone involved a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


2016 Facts

- 723 people have volunteered for BNG so far - 200 people attended Brecks watercolour painting workshops -Thousands of records of Brecks species made by volunteers - 8.96km of pine lines restored and 4.85km of new lines planted