Famed for its dry, sandy landscape that conjured up visions of a wild desert to early travellers, the Brecks have been shaped by long human interaction with this marginal natural environment. Its very name commemorates the temporary fields that were ‘broken in’ from the area’s extensive heaths.
In March 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) confirmed the award of nearly £1.5million to the Breaking New Ground Landscape Partnership, enabling a £2.2m scheme (the largest of its kind in East Anglia) to deliver a range of exciting Heritage and Landscape Projects in the heart of the Brecks until June 2017.
The Brecks is a surprisingly large area in the heart of East Anglia with a unique landscape characterised by heathlands, sandy soils, pine lines and forest plantations (see right for The Brecks Landscape Character Assessment). Not only does this make the area look and feel different to other parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, it has meant that the way humans have lived and worked in the landscape throughout history has been very different.
'Breaking New Ground’ provided the dynamic impetus to move this unique landscape from the margins of public awareness to the mainstream, connecting communities to the skills and understanding necessary to sustain its natural, archaeological and built heritage and enable them to explore and celebrate its distinctive features such as pine lines, flint buildings, forests and heaths. It sought to address the challenges presented by climate change, economic pressure, population growth and diversity and connect effective, integrated rural development with environmental excellence in this sensitive and special landscape.
We told the story of the Brecks landscape and celebrate its unique social history, landscape character and the myriad of rare and unusual specialist plants, insects, birds and other species that make their home here.
Working to improve areas for the benefit of wildlife, so our special species can continue to thrive.
Linking communities to the area's rich history and heritage, by bringing the stories of the past to life and making new discoveries.
Improving access to The Brecks, both physical and digital, in a number of exciting ways.
Raising knowledge, understanding and appreciation of The Brecks area through education and skills training.
Whilst Breaking New Ground was required by HLF to deliver its projects within an agreed core area (231km2 focused around the Brecks market towns of Thetford and Brandon), many of the projects were specifically devised to ensure that their benefits, and opportunities for participation and training will be available to everyone across the full 1,029km2 of the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks, and beyond.
The scheme was hosted by Suffolk County Council at Brandon Country Park and supported by Norfolk County Council, St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council as well as a host of other organisations including Natural England, English Heritage, RSPB, Forestry Commission, University of East Anglia, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, The Breckland Society, Farm Conservation, Iceni Botanical Artists, Green Light Trust, Plantlife, Norfolk Geodiversity Partnership, Orchard Barn Environmental Education, and Ancient House Museum.
As a result of the legacy development work carried out during BNG, the partnership agreed to develop a follow-up application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and focus on a new landscape within the Brecks - The Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers. An expression of interest was well received and the partnership was encourage to submit a new proposal, which it did in June 2017.
While still hosted by Suffolk County Council, the BNG partnerhsip has now rebranded as the Brecks Fen Edge and Rivers Landscape Partnership, and submitted a stage 2 application for an exciting 5-year, £3.3M scheme in May 2019. The new application was successful and BFER will now continue to enable the 20+ partners to deliver landscape heritage focussed projects that engage the community, local schools and interest groups, creating a real sense of place, and supporting those communities to develop new and sustainable heritage conservation skills.
For more information visit www.brecks.org which will become the host site for this Breaking New Ground legacy content, the New BFER scheme, and everything you need to know about the Brecks Landscape Heritage!