Breaking New Ground Landscape Partnership, formed to educate about and conserve The Brecks, celebrates its achievements
- Credit: Ian Burt
Over the last three years the Breaking New Ground Landscape Partnership has been working to reconnect people with The Brecks. Rebecca Murphy looks at the success of the scheme as it comes to an end.
Spanning more than 393sq miles across Norfolk and Suffolk The Brecks is a unique landscape characterised by heathlands, sandy soils, pine lines and forests.
Yet despite its natural beauty, it is an area that has often been overlooked by visitors to the region or under-valued by those who live there.
Not only is it an area of picturesque views and stunning scenery, it also boasts a rich heritage which has helped to shape and define the landscape.
Identified by Natural England as being a significant character area, it is home to many rare species and habitats which are nationally important.
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To help educate and raise awareness of the area's history, and to restore and conserve the wildlife and environment, the Breaking New Ground (BNG) Landscape Partnership was formed in 2014.
In March of that year, BNG was awarded a grant of £1.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This enabled the partnership to roll out a £2.2m scheme - the largest of its kind in East Anglia - to start delivering a range of heritage and landscape projects.
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Such was the success of BNG that over three years, 46 new projects were implemented with 25 project partners, wildlife and conservation trusts and organisations and county and district councils.
The projects were divided into four categories; A Home to Many, A Window into the Past, A Place to Explore and A Future for All. These dealt with habitats and species, the ancient and recent history of the area, improving access to the landscape and passing on locally important skills to a new generation.
Workshops to teach traditional practices - including flint walling, timber framing and sheep herding crafts - were particularly popular.
Through these sessions it is hoped landowners and residents can learn practices which they can use and pass on.
Nick Dickson, project manager, said: 'We wanted to engage the local community. To me this has been incredibly successful. One thing we have tried to build in all the projects is legacy. It is about continuing awareness and better informing the landowners.
'The partners who helped to deliver the projects, they will monitor them over the years and look after the habitats. None of the projects will stop when BNG stops.'
One thing Mr Dickson and his team are most proud of is the number of children who got involved. There were 95 educational sessions held, including 36 trips, which benefited 5,607 pupils from 22 Brecks schools.
'If these children grow up knowing more about The Brecks and caring about the environment then it has all been worth it,' said Mr Dickson.
'I got enthused when I was a young child and I hope in 30 years time some of those kids who took part in some of the projects get involved in conservation. We've had some great feedback from parents.'
An iconic and important symbol of The Brecks, the pine lines dominate the flat landscape. With the help of schools, the Elveden and Euston Estates, and the MoD, more than 8km of these were restored and more than 4km new lines planted.
On the pine lines Mr Dickson said: 'They are a symbol of the Brecks. You know when you're in the Brecks when you see the pine lines, you don't get them anywhere else. We got the schools involved so they are now aware of what them.'
He added: 'We have over achieved in our conservation results. We got more children and volunteers involved then we set out too.
'It shows that the local people care about the landscape. We know an awful lot of people did but we have introduced a lot of people to what makes The Brecks so special.
'It is only through it being valued that it is going to be looked after.'
Mr Dickson has also highlighted the ground disturbance scheme at Brandon Heath, to encourage rare plant species back to the area, and the people's history of Thetford Forest, as successful projects.
He added: 'There have been no negatives over the three years. I am really proud of this scheme because we got people working together which is fantastic. The groups and organisations are more aware of their audiences.'
A proposal has been put forward for a scheme to look at water ways and fen edges in The Brecks.
For more information about BNG and its projects which have taken place visit Breaking New Ground