Knettishall Heath milestone marked with fence cutting ceremony

Saturday 14th May 2016

Suffolk Wildlife Trust has marked the completion of the most ambitious part of its vision to restore Knettishall Heath.

The purchase of the heath in January 2012 represented the charity’s biggest land acquisition to date and a golden opportunity to restore a nationally important site to a landscape of open grazed heath and scattered trees – a habitat needed by so many unique Breckland species.

Four years on, the most significant step towards achieving this goal has been completed with the installation of cattle grids on the roads running through the reserve and the removal of internal and roadside fencing.

It is the first time grids have been installed on a road in Suffolk to support conservation grazing and the Trust’s herd of Exmoor ponies are now free to roam across a largely fenceless heath, creating the subtle mosaic of habitats only this type of land management can achieve.

To mark the important milestone at Knettishall Heath, William Kendall, the High Sheriff of Suffolk symbolically cut one of the last remaining fences at a special ceremony on Friday May 13 at the reserve.

He was joined by local volunteers and a representative from the Heritage Lottery Fund whose support provided essential funding for the purchase and restoration of the heath and a people and wildlife ranger.

Also present was a representative from WREN, whose funding allowed the Trust to deliver such an ambitious and extensive project.

Julian Roughton, chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said the linking up of the heath for the first time since the 1940s was a “hugely significant moment”.

He added: “Knettishall Heath is a magnificent site for wildlife which is greatly loved by local people. Thanks to the support of HLF, WREN and Natural England we have been delighted to restore lost habitats and involve volunteers and young people in the care of this precious place. This ceremony marks an important moment in our vision for Knettishall Heath and over the years we are sure that wildlife will respond to the changes that we have put in place.

“We are already seeing signs that ground-nesting birds are returning in greater numbers and one of our most ambitious aims for this project is to bring back nightjar as a breeding species.”

Samantha Gay, wildlife ranger at Knettishall Heath, said: “It has been an amazing experience to work here and watch the landscape change. But there is no doubt that what has been achieved so far at Knettishall could not have happened without the support of a great many volunteers who have been with us every step of the way.”

Robyn Llewellyn, head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “We are delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, Suffolk Wildlife Trust was able to acquire and protect this nationally important site. It’s wonderful that so many people now have the chance to explore the rich range of wildlife and habitats on the Heath, and inspiring that events such as this are driven by a thriving local community of volunteers”.

Peter Cox, managing director of WREN, said: “WREN makes a difference to people’s lives by awarding grants to community, environmental and heritage projects across the UK. We’re delighted to support Suffolk Wildlife Trust and their valuable work.”