Factsheet for Breckland

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Country: United Kingdom

Central coordinates: 52.51722889o [52o 31' 2" North], 0.73718905o [0o 44' 13" East]

Administrative region: East of England (Cambridgeshire, West Norfolk, West Suffolk)

Area: 7829 ha

Altitude: 9 - 48

Site Description
The Breckland IPA contains a series of habitats of conservation value, including extensive calcareous grass-heaths, acid grasslands and heather heaths, plus lichen heath, surface waters (including fluctuating meres and pingos), wetlands, fen, and woodland. The large tracts of land of low fertility have a history of only sporadic cultivation and, coupled with a distinctly continental climate and a complex surface geology, this has led to the formation of distinctive and sensitive flora. Much of Breckland has been afforested and a sizeable area is used by the MOD as a training area; much of the remainder is intensively farmed but large tracts of semi-natural habitat yet remain and many of the characteristic plants continue to survive within the forested and farmed areas.

Within the IPA there are forty eight SSSI’s covering a range of habitats unique in the UK with lowland grassland, heathland and open habitats being of particular significance; in addition the area contains the UK’s only inland mobile sand-dune system. These important habitats support many plant species considered Breckland specialities, most notably the endemic Scleranthus perennis ssp. prostratus. The area is of considerable significance for other taxonomic groups, including birds, invertebrates and reptiles.

Botanical Significance
This IPA supports several habitat types that are of conservation importance, including European dry heaths, Inland dunes with open Corynephorus and Agrostis grasslands, Natural eutrophic lakes with Magnopotamion or Hydrocharition-type vegetation and Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia). Most significant of the species present are those of light, sandy but calcareous soils with a pattern of disturbance, namely Silene otites, S.conica, Bromus tectorum Phleum phleoides, Scleranthus perennis, Thymus serpyllum, Muscari neglectum, Medicago minima, Vulpia ciliata,Veronica verna, V. triphyllos and Filago lutescens. In addition, the area supports a fine array of calcicolous grassland species including Astragalus danicus,Galium parisiense and Botrychium lunaria and the dunes support the only inland UK population of Corynephorus canescens. The Brecks are also known for the naturally fluctuating meres which support a characteristic flora including Potamogeton x zizii, P. gramineum and Ceratophyllum submersum; Alisma gramineum is also known from one site. The meres and few other waterbodies support an impressive array of stoneworts including C. curta and C. rudis; Nitella. tenuissima was also known from the area in the past.

Noted for habitat and vascular interest

Management guidance notes
Barnham Cross; Ickingham; Maidscross Hill; Wangford; Weeting, Lakenheath; Weeting, Tuddeswell, Rampart Field, Elvedon. Euphrasia anglica, Euphrasia pseudokerneri; calcareous fens. Noted for habitat and bryophyte interest.