Breaking New Ground

About Breaking New Ground

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 start delivering a range of exciting Heritage and Landscape Projects in the heart of the Brecks.

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. 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’ will provide 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 will seek 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 will tell 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.

To find out more, visit the website.

Our Involvement

Discovering the Archaeology of the Brecks

Discover the archaeology of the Brecks - Are you itching to get your hands dirty in a real excavation? Dying to know more about mysterious crop marks? Then this project could be just for you.

Archaeologists now recognise the Brecks as an internationally important archaeological landscape. The prehistory of the area, although evidently of importance, is actually poorly understood with few opportunities for public engagement.

Working in partnership, Norfolk and Suffolk County Council aim to assemble and train a team of landscape investigators.  They will undertake field walking, test-pitting and limited excavation. This team will then be available to monitor the effects of any operations that disturb the ground, and gather data that is useful for management decisions.  This will help to extend the academic understanding of the area’s prehistory (and of course history – any investigations would record everything, regardless of date!).  Information will be made available via a website, exhibition and through presentations. Volunteers will also be trained in the analysis and interpretation of artefacts and the preparation of archaeological reports. They will then be encouraged and supported to undertake researches of their own, and their work will culminate in a one-day conference celebrating community archaeology in the Brecks.

The ultimate aim is that the team becomes as self-sufficient as possible.  Its work will establish a rolling, long-term project that will steadily increase its coverage and understanding of the Brecks.

Find out more: 

Brecks from Above

The Brecks has rich archaeological potential, yet there is a lack of good landscape data to inform management decisions.  This means that features are at risk because their presence, location and significance aren’t known or fully understood.

A major priority for the area in terms of local heritage protection is, therefore, to enhance baseline knowledge of heritage assets within forestry and heathland areas.  Aerial photography plays a key role in this.

Norfolk Historic Environment Service aims to promote greater understanding of and engagement with the historic Breckland landscape and archaeology (in particular the important role played by Aerial photography) by providing:

an outreach and training programme on Aerial Archaeology in the Brecks

digital access to 1000 historic aerial photos of sites in the BNG scheme

opportunities to participate in identification, interpretation and recording activities.  This will include the training of volunteers to identify potential archaeological sites from Air Photos, including Google Earth Images, and to submit their own online records.

Brecks from Above:

Ground Disturbance

The Brecks is an area of unique climate and soils.  A history of grazing and cultivation created an open landscape attracting rare flora and fauna.  There has, however, been a decline in the creation of this broken/bare ground, which has led to a decrease in the wildlife that depends upon it.

The Breckland Biodiversity Audit (BBA) recorded 12,845 species in The Brecks, identifying 2,149, of national importance, as Brecks priority species. It highlighted the importance of bare ground habitats in supporting those species.

This project will explore a range of different disturbance treatments in order to increase populations of plants, invertebrates and birds through varied habitat management and mosaic creation.

Consultation with the scientific community, conservation and land management professionals and land owners will aim to increase understanding of different ground disturbance treatments.  Volunteering opportunities will provide long term engagement.

This project is being delivered through the partnership of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Forestry Commission, Suffolk County Council, Norfolk County Council and University of East Anglia, and with the support of Natural England.  A more joined up approach will be beneficial, experimenting with different techniques, with increased monitoring, coordinating information and sharing best practice among land owners, managers and the wider community.

More info:

Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2022 Norfolk Historic Environment Service