The Brecklands, quite literally, ‘the broken lands’, is one of the UK’s most unusual natural (or perhaps we should say semi-natural) areas. The dry sandy heaths and inland sand dune systems are the driest part of the UK and has plant and animal communities that link closely with the more continental parts of Europe, and many of the species found here are rare within the UK.
We’ll start at Cranberry Rough, an area of wet woodland and fen that occupies the basin of what was Hockham Mere. Cattle Egrets stroll amongst livestock in nearby fields and Common Snipe drum over the open areas of fen. In the trees we can look for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit and Nuthatch. There’s much of the uncommon and pretty Water Violet Hottonia palustris in open pools surrounded by stands of Yellow Flag and Great Yellowcress. Common Darters will already be on the wing. We’ll also see Three-nerved Sandwort, Heath Bedstraw and the unusual clambering Climbing Corydalis.
In the afternoon we’ll explore Thompson Common. The Common is dotted with pingos. These periglacial features formed where water pressure caused the ground to rise into substantial mounds, and as the climate has warmed they’ve collapsed into depressions filled with water. The resultant mix of dry and wet provides rich habitat niches with the result that the Common is extremely biodiverse. Over four hundred species of plant have been recorded and the insect fauna is spectacular. Amongst the latter in May we can find the large longhorn beetle Stenochorus meridianus, Gorse Shield Bug and both Bombus hypnorum and Bombus hortorum. Nineteen species of Odonata have been recorded at Thomson Common and many of them are already on the wing in May with Lestes sponsa, Coenagrion puella, Coenagrion pulchellum, Enallagma cyathigerum, Pyrrhosoma nymphula,, Ischnura elegans Libellula quadrimaculata, Orthetrum cancellatum, Anax imperator and Brachytron pratense all possible. This is one of the very few sites in the country where one can see the Scarce Emerald Damselfly.