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Our Natural History

Breckland is one of the most remarkable habitats within Britain and is famous for its conservation interest. Breckland is thought to be one of the earliest areas to be occupied by humans, the mixture of sandy and chalky soils have traditionally been cultivated for short periods before being left. Breck refers to broken ground used temporarily for cultivation. The open disturbed landscape and continental climate has resulted in a unique ecological community.

The area around Tuddenham is famous amongst botanists. There are a two roadside verge nature reserves created to protect the grape hyacinth. Cypress spurge occurs in the area and the road verges alongside Cherry Hill contain a remarkable number of very rare plants. The bright red mossy tillea grows commonly on the heath in the car park and along the track.

Breckland is the main breeding area for the stone curlew in Britain. This species nests both on the heath and in nearby fields and in summer evening can often be heard flying over the village. A few pairs of woodlark nest on the heath. The distinctive churring sound of the nightjar can be heard on warm evenings on the heath. The hobby (a falcon) can regularly be seen flying over the village in the summer. The red-backed shrike, now extinct as a breeding bird in Britain, used to breed on the heath as did the Montaguešs harrier.

The fen alongside the mill was clearly once extensive. It held the only colony of the swallowtail butterfly in Suffolk and last remaining Suffolk colony of the marsh fritillary butterfly (which persisted until at least 1904). Other butterflies that once occurred in Tuddenham that are rare in East Anglia include the chalkhill blue, silver-studded blue and dark-green fritillary. Uncommon butterflies that still occur in the area are the white admiral (in the wood adjacent to the heath), white-letter hairstreak (along the lane to the heath) and grayling (on the heath).

The heath contains huge numbers of rabbits. Introduced muntjac deer are often seen in the woods. Roe deer are common and often seen in fields. In recent years a number of red deer have been seen on the heath. Long-eared bats breed in the church. The otter became almost extinct in East Anglia probably as a result of pesticide poisoning but is now recovering and has been seen along the River Lark.

William J. Sutherland Š 2000

A Forest Heath District Council (Suffolk) Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Millennium Festival Š2000 Designed by ArtAtac