Upcoming Events

Sunday January 20th, 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Visit to West Stow Hall ** FULLY BOOKED **

The visit will include a talk by the owner, a tour of the Hall and its gatehouse, and tea, cakes and scones served in the Great Hall.

West Stow Hall is only open to the public on a few occasions each year. Our visit is at a special price and we can take a maximum of 25 people.

The Hall and its gatehouse, Grade 1 listed, were built in about 1520, probably on the site of an earlier moated hall dating back to at least the mid-13th century.

The three story gatehouse has turrets surmounted by terracotta figures and contains a very rare 16th century wall painting of the Ages of Man. Above its entrance is the coat of arms of Queen Mary of France, later the Duchess of Suffolk, who was Henry VIII’s younger sister. It is linked to the house by a colonnade built in 1580.

West Stow Hall is a timber framed structure joined by iron ties. The downstairs front rooms are very heavily timbered, with some of the side uprights rising up through the house to the roof. The lounge has a one of the largest inglenooks in Suffolk. The rear frame of the Hall includes a great reception hall, dating from the early 16th century. It has heavily carved beams with interesting detail.

In the 1840s the house was partially faced in brick by its then owner, the Rev. Benyon, said to have been the wealthiest clergyman in England.

Directions: West Stow Hall is off the Icklingham Road in the village of West Stow, 4½  miles north-west of Bury St Edmunds and 3 miles south-east of Icklingham. The entrance to the Hall is nearly opposite the trout farm and is shared with West Stow Stud. Drive past the Stud to the end of the drive (about 200 yards). There is ample parking.

Refreshments: Tea, cakes and scones including gluten free options.

Venue: West Stow Hall, IP28 6EY United Kingdom


There are no events currently scheduled for February.

Saturday March 25th or Sunday March 26th, 12.00 noon

Adders and other wildlife at Cavenham Heath NNR

Adders hibernate at the edge of the reserve, close to the River Lark.  On sunny days, they emerge from their hibernaculum and sun themselves in the shelter of roots on grassy banks, and look for mates. This site provides good opportunities to view the animals without disturbing them.  Even so we will need to restrict the group size to a maximum of 10-12.

Adder spotting is completely weather dependent and so this excursion will take place from noon on either Saturday 23 or Sunday 24th March , whichever has the best forecast. We will email those who have booked a few days in advance.

Cavenham Heath has other attractions: it is a classic Breckland heath, well known for stone curlew,  woodlark, stonechat and perhaps whinchat and wheatear in spring. Kingfishers and grey wagtails can be seen along the River Lark. Adjacent gravel pits are home to waterfowl and red deer are often seen.

If  you wish to join us, please email secretary@brecsoc.org.uk to reserve a place – if you are only available on one of the days, please state this on your email.  And as both days are somewhat uncertain, we won’t ask for payment in advance – please just bring £5 per member and £8 per non-member on the day. Places will be limited to give those attending the best chance of seeing the adders without disturbing them.

Joining instructions will be sent out about a week before the event.

Sunday May 12th

The Spring Flowers of Weeting Heath

Time TBA

A guided walk led by James Symmonds of Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

Following on from our excellent walk round this reserve in mid-July 2018, James, a highly knowledgeable naturalist, will guide us round sections of this NWT reserve not normally open to the public.

Weeting Heath is famous for breeding stone curlews, and is one of the very finest remaining Breckland heaths and home to the rare Spiked Speedwell, Spanish Catchfly and Maiden Pink.

This walk will give us the chance to see a wealth of spring flowers, including Breckland specialities such as the Breckland and Spring Speedwells and Purple-stemmed Cat’s Tail. Common Blue and Holly Blue butterflies may be on the wing, and we may catch a glimpse of stone curlews.

Please book in advance. Members £5, non-members £8.
Refreshments can be bought at the NWT visitor centre before and after the walk.

Venue: NWT Reserve, Weeting Heath IP26 4NQ

Wednesday May 15th Time: TBA

Shadwell Stud (Members Only)

A private evening visit to the Shadwell Stud near Thetford.

We will be given a guided tour of the equine facilities, including meeting some of the top stallions, and will also have the opportunity to see some of the historic buildings and heritage features on the wider estate.

Numbers are strictly limited and so this is a members-only event, with priority given to those who were not able to join the previous visit in May 2017. Places must be booked in advance by contacting secretary@brecsoc.org.uk by 30 April at the latest.

Sunday June 9th, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm

A.G.M. & “The Flintknapper’s Ghost” Poetry Walk

The 2019 Annual General Meeting will take place between 2.00 and 2.45pm on Sunday 9 June in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Santon Downham. This small Grade 1 listed church, also known as The Church in the Forest, is historically important with notable dedicated foundation stones at the base of the tower and a marvellous stained glass window depicting Brecklands wildlife. Please note there is no toilet in the church – public conveniences are in the nearby public carpark, by the Forestry Commission offices. Full details of parking options will be included in one of our periodic emails closer to the date.

Immediately after the Annual General meeting, poet, entomologist and naturalist Tim Gardiner will lead us on The Flint Knapper’s Poetry Walk, from St Helen’s Well Picnic Site, Santon Downham, from 3.00-5.00pm. Tim will talk about the area and its wildlife and read Santon poems from his book, The Flint Knapper’s Ghost, an anthology of prose and haiku (which will be on sale). Other poets are invited to read their work too.

Venue: St. Mary The Virgin Church, Santon Downham, United Kingdom

Invitation to Visit Marham House

Tuesday June 11th, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Sir Jeremy and Lady Sarah Bagge have kindly  invited members of  the Breckland Society to tour Marham House on Tuesday 11 June at 6.30pm. There are around seven acres of grounds, a 20th century house and some remains of the earlier 1815 house: a Winter Gardens and The Old Diary. Wine, soft drinks and light refreshments  will be provided. Please note this will be a member only event for a maximum for 30 attendees, with only outside photography permitted. The cost will  be £12.50 in aid of Marham church. Full details of the event, including arrangements for parking, will be sent out on an event notification email nearer the time.

The Angel Roofs of East Anglian Churches

Date, time and cost – TBA

An illustrated talk by Sarah Cassell

East Anglia is home to some of the most extraordinary church roofs in the country, richly decorated with ‘life sized’ and often painted angels. These churches and their angelic hordes are beautifully documented in Michael Rimmer’s 2015 book “Angel Roofs of East Anglia”.

Quite a number of these are in Breckland, or easily accessible from the area; one of the best Breckland angel roofs is that of  St. Mary’s Church, Mildenhall.

Sarah Cassell is currently doing a PhD on the subject; by the kind permission of the vicar, Sarah will talk about these amazing roofs in the very appropriate setting of St Mary’s! So not only will you learn about the fascinating history of this extraordinary form of church decoration, including Cromwell’s attempts to destroy them (and how the locals saved many of them) you will do so under the gaze of dozens of angels.

The event will be a joint one with the Church, and will be publicised locally in Mildenhall – but given the venue, we don’t expect to run out of seating!

M.R. James’s East Anglian Connections and Influences

Sep 13, 7:30 pm

Talk by Rik Hoggett, ex Suffolk County Council archaeologist, and Journal of Breckland Studies editorial panel member.

M.R. James was a Cambridge university academic, probably best known for his Christmas ghost stories, told to friends and students in his college rooms in the early 1900s, and now often dramatized on radio around Christmas. However, he was also a distinguished archaeologist and medievalist, who conducted a lot of research in our region.

Rik Hoggett, who many of you will know, is a professional archaeologist and is currently researching this topic. The talk will cover James’ work at Livermere, Bury St Edmunds Abbey and the excavations of the abbots’ tombs, as well as the wider influences of East Anglia’s landscape and history on James’ academic work and ghost stories.

Venue: The Engine House, Brandon Country Park, Brandon, Suffolk IP27 0SU