Breckland Society News

4th February 2022
There WILL be a tour of STANTA this year!

A tour of the STANTA battle area near Thetford is one the events most frequently requested by members. The majority of the site has not really been impacted by the MOD’s presence, and large areas of it are still very close in nature to what the Brecks would have looked like 80 or more years ago. You probably know about the expulsion of residents (never to return) from several villages in the area during WW2 … and that most of the outdoor scenes from Dad’s Army were filmed there.

Public coach tours of the site have been fairly standardised, visiting the same parts of the site each time, including the simulated Afghan and Iraqi villages. However, we are more interested in those parts of the area which are important from a nature and landscape history viewpoint, and had requested a ‘customised’ tour. We were hoping to arrange this for early 2020, but then Covid intervened, and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, who manage the site, told us that not only were all tours cancelled for the foreseeable future, it was more likely than not that there would be NO future public visits to STANTA!

However, we have now received a very positive email from the new Deputy Commandant, saying that they are now ready to welcome a tour by the Society, inviting us to specify what we would hope to see, and when, and assuring us that they will do their best to accommodate us, given the very many constraints they have to work within, such as safety and short-term operational needs. We are now working to get all the details pinned down as soon as we can.

The tour is likely to take place on a weekday evening, and will strictly be for members only. As these tours use a commercial coach to drive to and around the site, it is likely to be limited to a maximum of about 40 people. There will be a charge, but we do not yet know how much; however, it is likely to be about £10-£15 per member. The coach departure point (and therefore parking) is likely to be Swaffham town centre.

Once the date is agreed, we will publish full details on our Events page here, and booking will, as usual, open 3 weeks in advance of the event.

19th January 2022
Bridget’s Childhood Memories

Many of our original members will remember Bridget and Pieter Elliot; they moved away from the area some years ago. Bridget grew up in the Brecks in the 1940s, and a few years ago produced a charming memoir of those years. Bridget has kindly agreed to share this with our members and others who are interested in the area and the time. You can download a copy of “A 1940s Childhood In Breckland And Norwich” by clicking on the link.

5th November 2021
Latest from BFER

Click HERE for the latest newsletter from the BFER (Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers) project team.

27th  April 2021
Cold War reports being posted to members

We now have the printed copies of the final report for our Lottery-funded project “The Cold War in The Brecks” and a copy will be posted to all members whose addresses we have in the next few days. If you have not received a copy by the end of the first week of May, we may not have your correct address; if so please contact to update it.

Additional copies will be available for collection from Ceres Bookshop & Tearoom in Swaffham, and from Swaffham Museum (the Museum is currently closed but the shop is open) by the end of this week. From mid-May, copies can also be collected from RAF Marham Aviation Heritage Centre and from Mildenhall Museum, (and another couple of sites which are not yet confirmed) once such venues re-open.

3rd April 2021
Can you help the Freshwater Habitats Trust survey the species in Breckland waterbodies?

‘Testing the Water’ is a Citizen Science project, part of the Breckland Fen Edge and Rivers (BFER) Heritage Landscape Partnership scheme, to raise awareness of habitat loss, pollution and rare species. It is involves surveying in the BFER project area using cutting edge Environmental DNA sampling of ponds, streams, ditches and river headwater streams, and rapid water quality test kits that make visible pollution that is otherwise invisible and largely unknown.

Environmental DNA (eDNA for short) is DNA that’s released into the water by plants and animals in a host of ways: from their skin, faeces, mucous, hair, eggs and sperm, or when they die. It is now possible to monitor the freshwater species that live in ponds, streams and other waterbodies simply by collecting a water sample and analysing it for traces of DNA.

Results will be mapped to identify water quality and dispersal of key red list species in the project area to facilitate improved awareness and better conservation management practices.

Volunteers are needed to survey the sites shown on the map below. There will be free online training on Thursday 15th April at 3pm, after which volunteers will be sent their sampling kits through the post. If you would like to help, just email Ann Carter of the Freshwater Habitats Trust at> and tell her which area you would like to help sample.

17th March 2021
Resources For Online Research

Richard Hoggett delivered the third River Raiders online seminar today, looking at online sources for UK archaeological and historical research. You can download the notes and list of links here. The video will be posted on YouTube shortly.

15th November 2020
Norfolk Wildlife Trust launches appeal in the Brecks


The Norfolk Wildlife Trust has launched an appeal to expand its flagship reserve of Thompson Common, famous for its 400 pingos and home to many rare and specialist Breckland species including the reintroduced Pool Frog. The reserve is currently marooned in a sea of arable land, disconnected from the wider Brecks landscape, but the opportunity has arisen for the Trust to purchase over 50 hectares of adjoining farmland and semi-natural woodland which, if acquired, can be managed to improve biodiversity and help connect otherwise fragmented habitats.

The Trust needs to raise £625,625 by next May

For more information and to support the appeal, see

24th October 2020
Second River Raiders Seminar Video Now Available

The video of Richard Hoggett’s second online Zoom seminar, “Reading the Anglo-Saxon and Viking Landscape” is now also available on YouTube.

15th October
First River Raiders Seminar Video Now Available

For those of you who missed it (and those who just want to see it all over again!) we’re pleased to say that the video of Richard Hoggett’s Zoom seminar on “Anglo-Saxon & Viking East Anglia is now available on YouTube

We hope to be able to make the HD (high definition) version available shortly, possibly with subtitles!

5th October 2020
Wretham Hall 1910 Sale Catalogue Digitised
New Articles On Breckland Rivers

A copy of the 1910 catalogue for the sale of the 6,600 acre Wretham estate was donated to the society back in 2011. We have finally got round to digitising it and you can download it here. It paints a fascinating picture of a large Breckland shooting estate over 100 years ago.

During lockdown and subsequently, as a prelude to the River Raiders project, some of our members have written articles on the following Breckland rivers:

If you want to get out and about, and beat pandemic boredom, you may find them useful!

30th September 2020
Excellent “River Raiders” Seminar today

We had about seventy(!) attendees for Dr Richard Hoggett’s excellent Zoom seminar on “Anglo-Saxon and Viking East Anglia” earlier today. That’s a pretty remarkable total for 10.30 on a Wednesday morning, and a lot more than we’ve ever had at a physical BrecSoc meeting. Pretty well everyone stayed for the full two hours, and there were lots of very complimentary comments as people signed off.

For those of you unable to see Richard’s talk live, we hope to post a video of it online fairly soon. You can also download a copy of Richard’s post-seminar notes, with links to more online and offline reading, by clicking here.

There are already 70+ signed up for the next seminar in 3 weeks time, so if you want to be sure of a place, please look on our events page; total tickets are limited to 100, the maximum our Zoom licence allows – so book soon.

12th September 2020
First “River Raiders” Events announced

After delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 5-year Lottery-funded Brecks Fen Edge & Rivers (BFER) project is now ramping up.

BrecSoc is leading on two projects related to the Viking history and heritage of Breckland – ‘River Raiders’ and ‘Industrious Rivers’. Details of the first two River Raiders events, both Zoom talks by Dr Richard Hoggett can be found on our events page, and booking is now open.

30th August 2020
Brandon Station saved!

After some inspired local campaigning, the little architectural gem that is Brandon Station has been saved from demolition by Historic England awarding it Grade 2 listed status. Click here for details of the listing.