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Breckland and Thetford Forest

Norfolk Category Outdoor Activities, Nature & Wildlife
Breckland and Thetford Forest image

The Brecks has one of the most distinctive landscapes in the UK and boasts its best overall climate with low rainfall and hot summers.

The rambling area of untamed wilderness comprises vast forests of native coniferous softwood, lines of Scots pines called 'Deal rows' that are sometimes still maintained as true hedges, patches of classic historic heathland that were formed thousands of years ago by the felling and burning of forests for grazing land, and wide arable fields. Also unique to the Brecks are the prehistoric Pingos.

On the edge of the Norfolk/Suffolk border the Brecks gateway is the ancient town of Thetford, which is a perfect base from which to begin your exploration of the area's diversity, its outstanding wildlife, rich history and fun outdoor activities. To the north is the beautifully-preserved market town of Swaffham (where Tutankhamen archaeologist Howard Carter grew up), to the east is Dereham, the centre point of the county.

Thetford Forest, planted just after the First World War by the Forestry Commission, covers 20,000 hectares and, just like the rest of the Brecks, is perfect for cycling on quiet lanes and off-road, walking, horse riding and orienteering – or a more gentle picnic.

From at least the fourteenth century, large areas were used for warrens, and the intensive grazing of the rabbits could lead to the formation of mobile sand dunes: In the 1760s the area was described as 'sand, and scattered gravel, without the least vegetation; a mere African desert'. Dickens mentioned how barren it was in David Copperfield. Things are very different now!

The Brecks also has Peddars Way, which runs for 63 miles from just outside Thetford at Kettishall Heath to the north Norfolk coast via Swaffham. The route eventually meets the Norfolk Coast Path at Holme-next-the-Sea.

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