The Brecks

The Landscape

The unique Breckland landscape is a product of low fertility sandy and chalky soils, a dry semi-continental climate and a long history of human land use. For centuries it was managed through shifting arable farming, sheep grazing and rabbit warrening, resulting in a mix of cropped land and fallows (known as ‘Brecks’) which reverted to complex mosaics of acid and chalk grassland alongside heather-dominated heath – habitats supporting many rare species. This largely dry landscape is contrasted by lush wetlands associated with the valleys of meandering chalk rivers and post-glacial meres and pingos. However, the last century has seen massive changes: significant areas were acquired by the Forestry Commission in the 1920s and 30s and planted with commercially managed conifers; while post-War agricultural advances have enabled more effective farming including production of vegetables, salad crops and large numbers of outdoor pigs. Despite these changes significant expanses of Breck heath survive and the area remains a hotspot for biodiversity. 

Priority Habitats

  • The unique grass heath habitat of the Brecks supports a range of rare species.
  • Extensive planting has created the largest lowland conifer forest in England.
  • Relicts of the last glaciation, pingos are important wetland habitats in an otherwise largely dry landscape.

Priority Species

  • The iconic stone curlew is now thriving in the open habitats of the Brecks.
  • Rabbits are an important management tool in maintaining the short swards associated with the Brecks heaths.
  • Enjoying the poor soils of the Brecks, Viper’s Bugloss is strongly associated with this landscape in Norfolk.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust is adopting an ambitious approach to nature conservation: working in partnership with others and engaging local communities to restore and create networks of habitats at a landscape scale. The vision is to forge wildlife-rich Living Landscapes enjoyed by and benefitting all. In the Brecks Living Landscape, NWT proposes to:-
  • Manage the Trust’s extensive and internationally important land holding to ensure achievement of favourable conservation status.
  • Ensure continued sympathetic management of characteristic Brecks heathland sites, and identify opportunities to improve connectivity between them.
  • Promote positive management and restoration of the unique clusters of pingo sites across the Brecks.
  • Support the implementation of targeted conservation action aimed at the survival of iconic species such as the stone curlew, pool frog and guilds of rare invertebrates.
  • Ensure the network of rivers and associated floodplains that cross the landscape are managed in accordance with best practice to maximise their biodiversity value.
  • Work with the Forestry Commission, to secure maximum benefits for society from its land holding.
  • Encourage landowners to farm in ways that support farmland wildlife and deliver ecological connectivity across the countryside.
  • Facilitate, as required, the developing ‘farm cluster’ that is bringing together conservation-minded farmers and landowners.
  • Support research into the sustainable management of both habitats (e.g. through the use of rabbit grazing) and agricultural land (e.g. reducing soil erosion risk and minimising the impact of water abstraction for irrigation).
  • Continue playing an active role in partnership projects such as the ‘Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme’ and ‘Back from the Brink’.
  • Expand opportunities for voluntary action across the Living Landscape in support of both land management and survey and monitoring activity.
  • On the back of its urban strategy, improve links between the area’s market towns and the local environment.

Latest Living Landscape News

2021-10-29 Ground-breaking new Claylands Ground-breaking new Claylands wildlife project calls on South Norfolk communities
Friday 29 October, 2021
Norfolk Wildlife Trust is embarking on an ambitious new project to restore the "fabric of the countryside" ...
2021-06-15 More than £600k raised to expa More than £600k raised to expand Brecks nature reserve
Tuesday 15 June, 2021
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has reached its fundraising target to expand one of the Brecks’ most important nature re...
2018-08-13 Floating digger provides next Floating digger provides next stage of fen restoration
Monday 13 August, 2018
A 14-ton excavator has been ‘floating’ on a Norfolk fen this month to create a network of ponds, which wi...
2018-06-27 Summer Spirit as Cley calls to Summer Spirit as Cley calls to art and nature lovers
Wednesday 27 June, 2018
Just five weeks until our long summer weekend of wildlife and creativity at Cley! Thursday 2nd till Sunday 5th August...
2018-05-22 Wildlife in Common Wildlife in Common
Tuesday 22 May, 2018
A two year project celebrating Norfolk’s commons and their wildlife and heritage has begun,  run by Norfol...
2017-12-08 Be ‘eagle’ eyed this winter Be ‘eagle’ eyed this winter
Friday 08 December, 2017
Winter is often a very good time of year to spot birds of prey. As the trees have lost their leaves the silhouettes o...
2017-10-02 New report links volunteering New report links volunteering in nature with better mental health
Monday 02 October, 2017
A new report which examines the effects of volunteering in nature on people’s mental health is published by The...
2017-09-20 Cley Calling – Autumn Colours Cley Calling – Autumn Colours
Wednesday 20 September, 2017
This autumn, you can explore North Norfolk’s colourful coastal landscape and culture as part of NWT’s ...
2017-09-19 Celebrating two decades of rub Celebrating two decades of rubbish help for biodiversity
Tuesday 19 September, 2017
It feels counterintuitive - the waste we produce helping to restore habitats and conserve some of Norfolk’s mos...
2017-09-11 Breeding redshank return to Ro Breeding redshank return to Roydon Common after 40 years
Monday 11 September, 2017
A new noise has joined the cacophony of bubbling curlew, drumming snipe and the ‘tooo-wips’ of lapwing th...
2017-06-27 Norfolk's magical meadows Norfolk's magical meadows
Tuesday 27 June, 2017
Norfolk Wildlife Trust is leading a free meadow tour of Mulbarton Common this Saturday 1 July 2017 as part of The Wil...
2017-06-07 From Dartmoor to Breckland From Dartmoor to Breckland
Wednesday 07 June, 2017
New ponies settle in to manage Cranwich Camp, Norfolk.  Sixteen Dartmoor Ponies are settling in to their new...
2017-05-03 Cley Calling - Spring Song Cley Calling - Spring Song
Wednesday 03 May, 2017
Musicians and artists celebrate spring at the North Norfolk Coast From Thursday 4 May to Sunday 7 May, Norfolk Wi...
2017-04-18 £1 million target reached to s £1 million target reached to secure future of international wetland Hickling Broad
Tuesday 18 April, 2017
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has announced today that the £1 million target had been reached through donations to the...
2017-03-15 'Microsculpture' 'Microsculpture'
Wednesday 15 March, 2017
'Microsculpture' is a unique exhibition resulting from a ground breaking insects project by Levon Biss, Briti...
2017-03-07 Celebrating 'The Year of Norfo Celebrating 'The Year of Norfolk’s Nature' - photography competition
Tuesday 07 March, 2017
Norfolk Wildlife Trust today [Wednesday 8 March 2017] announced the winner of its photographic competition celebratin...
2017-02-16 Do some 'fun raising' and Do some 'fun raising' and "Help Hickling" Broad
Thursday 16 February, 2017
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has an ambitious target of raising £1 million by 31 March 2017 to help it purchase 655 a...
2017-02-02 World Wetlands Day celebrates World Wetlands Day celebrates major public commitment to securing Norfolk’s finest wetland
Thursday 02 February, 2017
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has announced today on World Wetlands Day that over £500,000 has been donated so far to ...
2017-01-14 Sea Flooding at NWT Cley Marsh Sea Flooding at NWT Cley Marshes Nature Reserve
Saturday 14 January, 2017
Update: 18 January 2017 Following the flooding at the weekend, reserve staff are now carrying out a clean-up and ...
2016-12-06 A strong step towards securing A strong step towards securing Hickling Broad
Tuesday 06 December, 2016
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has announced that over £128,000 has been donated so far as a result of it launching the...
2016-11-21 It's time to chat about the ba It's time to chat about the bat
Monday 21 November, 2016
Join bat expert John Goldsmith for an evening this Thursday [24 November] discovering the secret lives of these noctu...
2016-11-02 Hickling Broad - urgent appeal Hickling Broad - urgent appeal to secure future of historic Norfolk wildlife haven
Wednesday 02 November, 2016
 Norfolk Wildlife Trust today announced it is launching a £1 million appeal to secure the future of one of...
2016-05-13 Competition to name King’s Lyn Competition to name King’s Lynn Wildlife Area
Friday 13 May, 2016
Ideas are being sought from members of the public for a name to give to a publicly accessible wildlife area which is ...
2016-03-11 Taking action for county wildl Taking action for county wildlife
Friday 11 March, 2016
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has been awarded £81,600 from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HL...