Although named Elveden Forest (after the Estate from which the land is leased), our village in Suffolk is actually located within Thetford Forest.
Thetford Forest is the largest pine forest in Great Britain and actually spreads across two counties (Norfolk and Suffolk). The site we lease covers around 400 acres of largely coniferous woodland within the Breckland and, as with Sherwood Forest, this area of woodland was planted for commercial forestry.
However Thetford Forest’s history does not stretch as far back as Sherwood Forest’s, as it was only planted in the first half of the 20th century, following the First World War. It was intended to provide a strategic reserve of timber for the country, given the depletion of oaks and slow-growing trees as part of the war effort. Whilst the woodland itself is relatively new (in the context of woodlands!), the area played host to a Time Team dig in 2000, where evidence of early Stone Age human activity was uncovered.
The Breckland is considered to be of national importance as a landscape and has been severely impacted over the last three centuries by efforts to reclaim the area for plantations and intensive agriculture, leading to the extinction of some species which were native to the area, such as the great bustard. The Breckland habitats are unusual because of their continental climate, geology (with mosaics of calcareous and acid conditions) and traditional land use. These factors combine to allow a special mixture of species to develop, most of which are rare or, indeed, absent, from other areas of the country.
We have gone to great efforts to conserve and enhance the biodiversity of the Breckland, as well as retaining the special features of the coniferous woodland. However, we have also worked to enhance the biodiversity of the forest, adding wetlands, 32 acres of lakes, streams and ponds, and a mosaic of woodland clearings containing breck, wildflower and grassland meadows. Combined with the lowland heathland, lowland calcareous grassland, dry acid grassland and arable habitats of the Breckland, this provides an area rich in biodiversity, species and habitats.