On Thursday this week (6th November 2014) I went to meet up with Anne Mason of the Breckland Society at High Lodge, Thetford Forest. It was a clear, still autumn day - the colours in the forest are amazing at the moment!
With the ‘Internal Archaeology of the Brecks Warrens and Lodges’ project about to begin, this was the perfect opportunity for Anne to give me an introduction to the subject. We didn’t have to go far from the visitor centre to find the first bank of a mediaeval rabbit warren. The rabbits were a much prized possession and a lot of boundary monitoring would have been done to keep out predators and poachers, this was no mean feat as one bank can be followed for 8 miles around the forest, Anne tells me that children were often used for this task!
At the Investigating Archaeology launch event on Saturday (a different BNG project being delivered by NCC and SCC), I was suprised to learn that the first rabbits in this country couldn't actually burrow! They were introduced here from the Mediterranean by the Normans in the 12th century, and appear to have been ill-prepared for the 'stodgier soils'. Rumour has it that even Henry VIII's warrener had to help his rabbits to dig burrows!
In just a short time with Anne it was obvious that there is a lot of exciting work to be done as part of this project: to find out more about the internal workings of the Warrens and to do more mapping of banks in the area.
The project launches with a training day on 22nd November, so for anybody keen to learn more about the history and archaeological features associated with rabbit warrening, book a place and help to unravel the mysteries of our rabbity heritage.
Click here for details about the training day.
Click here to visit the Breckland Society's website.