Cavenham Heath or Tuddenham Heath? It's certainly nearer to the village of Tuddenham and it's called Tuddenham Heath on my map, though Natural England, who care for the site, are adamant that it's Cavenham Heath. An odd situation.
This is the Breckland. It's an odd sort of place and not the kind of landscape you'd expect to find in the middle of East Anglia most of which is made up of fertile, productive and intensively farmed arable land; something seems to have gone terribly wrong here.
And it started going wrong as long ago as the Neolithic age when farming was already exhausting the dry, sandy soils and the land became broken or breck-land. The land, grazed by sheep, became wide heathlands. The area was still important to early man however; flint was mined here and, as every schoolboy knows, that's what axes and other tools were made from.
From Norman times onwards rabbits were farmed here and there are lots of place-names that incorporate the word "warren". There is still a lot of land under agriculture here though the soils are very difficult to farm. It is also good for open-air pig farming as the land drains easily preventing the pigs turning everything into a huge mud-hole.
If grazing ceases then birch woods quickly establish themselves and eventually, if left alone, it's thought that oak would take over. Down by the River Lark a different wetland landscape is found.
During the 1920s and 30s, with agriculture and the general economy at a low ebb, the recently-formed Forestry Commission acquired large blocks of this unproductive sandy land and planted huge coniferous forests. Since it offered a chance of employment it was welcomed by the local community.
Much of the land which escaped being planted with trees was used by the military for training areas and remained as heathland. Cavenham Heath remained untouched because it was used as an military airfield for a time. A few old military buildings remain.
Nowadays the value of land for nature and for breeding birds is recognised and the land is managed by Natural England, a government agency charged with preserving the natural habitat.
In fact, as we have seen, the landscape here is far from natural having been managed, and mismanaged, by mankind for centuries giving rise to the traditional Breckland landscape. The present position is to preserve a balance of all the components of the scenery which are rich in wildlife and of scenic value.
|Photo borrowed from the internet.|
that I promised you last time. Every March the Stone Curlews return to the Breckland. There aren't many of them but two or three pairs usually nest on Cavenham Heath. They are queer birds: they are not Curlews at all though their calls are reminiscent of the other bird. They are classed as waders, but they don't go near water. They have huge eyes which allow them to be nocturnal though they are also to be seen in the daytime.
I don't think we'd have ever spotted them if it were not for a couple of birders with a powerful scope who'd seen them at pretty much the same location in other years.