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Eco-adventure in Breckland, Naturally

Breckland has one of the most distinctive landscapes in the UK and boasts its best overall climate with low rainfall and hot Summers. This is the place for eco-adventure.

Thetford Forest has communal areas for barbeques.

The area comprises vast forests of native coniferous softwood, unique lines of Scots pines called ‘Deal Rows’ that are derelict hedgerows, 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.

The gateway to the Brecks is the ancient riverside 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. The town is on the railway line between Cambridge and Norwich.

The statue of Thomas Paine, the man who saved the American Revolution.

This is the birthplace of 18th century radical Thomas Paine, whose thinking encouraged American independence and the abolition of slavery, and where the BBC’s Dad’s Army was filmed – look out for statues of Paine and Captain Mainwaring in the town centre.

To the north is the beautifully-preserved market town of Swaffham (where Tutankhamen archaeologist Howard Carter grew up), the National Trust’s moated Oxburgh Hall (in the village of Oxborough), Gooderstone Water Gardens and Castle Acre Priory, run by English Heritage.

To the east is Dereham, the centre point of the county, where you can ride the Mid-Norfolk Railway to Wymondham Abbey. Close by is Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum of Rural Life.

St Georges Distillery

The English Whisky Co at St George’s Distillery in Breckland.

Explore the village-like Attleborough and close by is the renowned Peter Beales’ Roses, winner of many Chelsea Flower Show awards, Bressingham Steam and Gardens, the English Whisky Company at St George’s Distillery and the thirty-acre Banham Zoo, where you can see big cats including snow leopards, as well as giraffes, apes and monkeys.

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, birdwatching and orienteering – or enjoy a picnic while trying to spot red deer. Start at High Lodge where you’ll find lots of activities including Go Ape and bike hire.

Thetford Forest High Lodge cycling

Thetford Forest has trails for runners, cyclists and horseriders.

Thetford Forest has an open access policy for horse riders making them welcome throughout the park.

From at least the fourteenth century, large areas were used for warrens, and the intensive grazing of rabbits lead to the formation in places 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. It’s very different now.

Grime's Graves Brecks

You can take a ladder down into one of the flint mines at Grime’s Graves.

The Brecks also has Peddars Way, which runs for 63 miles from just outside Thetford at Knettishall Heath to the north Norfolk coast via Swaffham.

The Brecks boasts some of the most important sites of historical interest in the country, not least 5,000-year-old Grime’s Graves, the only Neolithic flint mine open in Britain.

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Best things to do in Breckland and Thetford Forest

Norfolk is the UK’s first Good Journey county