Travel Guide to Breckland and the Thetford Forest

rg_norsuf01022thi_026Thetford Forest is 47,000 acres in extent, and is the UK’s largest coniferous lowland forest under the Forestry Commission. It straddles the Suffolk-Norfolk border and was once part of the larger Breckland area of Norfolk. However planting the forest in 1914 destroyed much of the earlier Breckland habitat of gorse and sand ridges.

This preceding habitat was itself largely the result of human activity such as mining flint. Thus the creation of the forest effectively returned the land to nature. A Neolithic flint mine called Grime’s Graves is set in typical heath habitat. It provides an interesting stop when visiting the Breckland district.

The Civil Parish of Thetford

The town of Thetford is the ideal holiday destination for anyone wishing to explore the area. It lies just south of Thetford Forest, and is the birthplace of radical thinker Thomas Paine. He was influential in both the American and French Revolutions and inspired American independence from Britain.

On a more light hearted note, Thetford was also the filming location of the popular BBC sitcom Dad’s Army from 1968 to 1977. There’s a Dad’s Army Museum to be visited here as well as a statue of Captain Mainwaring who also featured in the series. The Charles Burrell Museum is a must-see for admirers of old steam engines and agricultural machinery.

The Market Town of Swaffham

Swaffham is another beautifully preserved market town in what the locals call The Brecks. Its origins date back to the Angles and the Saxons. Tts attractive features include fine Georgian buildings, the medieval church of St Peter and Paul, and the 18th century Butter Cross in the heart of town.

Dereham, The Heart of Norfolk

Dereham is an attractive market town sometimes referred to as “The Heart of Norfolk”. Although fires ravaged it in the 15th and 16th centuries, the town still boasts a few architectural delights. These include the Church of Saint Nicholas, and Bishop Bonnar’s Cottage built 1502 which is now a museum. A lovely windmill from 1836 is worth seeing and recently underwent renovation.