The Brecks

One of the great natural areas of Britain

Image © Nick Ford

Image © Nick Ford

Introducing The Brecks...

A place of strange beauty and hidden stories which go back to the Stone Age.


The Brecks spans an area of 393 sq. miles/1019 sq. kilometres across Norfolk and Suffolk, in the heart of The East of England.  As one of the driest parts of Britain the large skies are often blue. Thetford Forest and Kings Forest, collectively the largest lowland forest in the UK, have miles of tranquil trackways and paths to explore.

Ancient heathland once covered huge areas of the Brecks, created by the axes of prehistoric farmers and the nibbling teeth of sheep and rabbits.  'Brecks' were temporary fields cultivated for a few years and then allowed to revert to heath one the soil became exhausted.  Sand storms were once a regular occurrence, such as the one which engulfed the village of Santon Downham in 1668.  Through many centuries the heaths, and the mysterious fluctuating Breckland lakes known as meres, became home to a distinctive range of plants and animals.

Over the last hundred years the ancient character of the Brecks has been changed forever.  The large-scale pine plantations of Thetford forest and the use of modern farming technology have transforms much of it into more productive land.  The remaining stretches, and the more open parts of the forest, are now vital areas for wildlife conservation.  The Brecks is an ideal area for quiet recreation, and the forests now welcome over 1.5 million visitors each year.


Click here for the Brecks National Character Area Profile - NCA 85. For other NCA profiles please click here.  These profiles explain how you can access environmental evidence and information about a specific NCAs.

  1. West Stow © Nick Ford

    History and Heritage

    The Brecks is steeped in human history stretching back to the Stone Age.  A Neolithic flint mine, rabbit warrens, Christian buildings, landed estates and infamous inhabitants all have stories waiting to be discovered. Read more »

  2. Dragonfly © Nick Ford

    Wildlife in the Brecks

    The Brecks is one of the most important wildlife areas in Britain.  Species are found here from the Mediterranean and Russian steppes that often don’t appear anywhere else in the UK. The area has the UK’s only inland sand dunes and relic glacial ponds known as ‘pingos’ . There are also meres or lakes that are fed from underground water and five rivers which cross the Brecks. Read more »


Spade by Nick Ford

Few of the lowland districts of England have more striking individual characteristics than the area know as the Breckland

W.G. Clarke, 1925