Breaking New Ground

Reconnecting People with The Brecks

Lambs © Nick Ford

Sheep in the Brecks

This project engaged volunteers to research and record the historic presence, and role of sheep in the Brecks landscape. The project team documented and investigated the various aspects of this lesser understood land-use heritage and promoted the use of sheep as a habitat management tool for conservation via workshops with land management professionals and small holders. A 40 page report was published, containing more information than originally planned due to the amount of new information uncovered by the volunteer team. The planned leaflet was sacrificed in order to expand the scope and scale of the report which was subsequently distributed to local outlets and available free as a hard copy or downloadable online.

During the course of the project, 21 volunteers were trained in various relevant heritage craft skills at workshops that included archival research, archaeology of bones and fieldwork days; looking for remnant evidence of the use of sheep. A grazing practitioner’s day was also run for conservation professionals and interested local smallholders to learn sheep husbandry and shepherding skills. In addition, three traditional skills workshops were run to pass on declining skills. An animal husbandry day, a hurdle-making day and a shepherds crook-making day were run with enthusiastic volunteers who all took away items they made.

The project uncovered a genuine artefact of the Brecks long since disappeared shepherds, in the form of a shepherd’s hut, in a garden near Beachamwell. It was in desperate need of repair and so the Breckland Society secured additional funding from the Grant Fund project to make repairs so it survives for many years to come. The landowner will run regular open days for interested people to come and see the hut, including on the National Heritage Weekend in September.

 

Legacy

 

  • Accessible information about an industry that has disappeared in recent years.
  • Local people have obtained lost skills.
  • Land managers more in tune with how landscape has been shaped by grazing and more aware of beneficial grazing practices in the Brecks.

The Sheep in the Brecks project has highlighted the historical role of sheep and sheep husbandry in the Brecks, a position as important as that of rabbits in creating the distinct ecology of the area.

James Parry, Breckland Society