Knettishall: Nature reserve will be ‘mini New Forest’

Exmoor Ponies at Knettishall Heath

Exmoor Ponies at Knettishall Heath - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

A scheme to create a “mini New Forest” in Suffolk will help protect some of the region’s rarest wildlife.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) hope to gradually restore the wildlife value of Knettishall Heath near Thetford, and create a “connected landscape” where heathland merges into woodland and wood pasture grazed by Exmoor ponies.

The plans, published in a new consultation document, follow the purchase of the site by the charity in 2012. Knettishall Heath, one of the largest remaining areas of heathland on the eastern edge of the Brecks, was previously leased by Suffolk County Council as a country park.

Julian Roughton, SWT chief executive, said that part of the vision would involve removing 4km of internal fencing and installing four cattle grids on roads that cross the reserve to create a welcoming open space.

He added: “What we’re setting out really is a vision for the future of Knettishall Heath, which is a grazed wooded landscape, a mixture of heathland and wood pasture. We find a way to help people visualise how that may look like, is to say it will be sort of a mini New Forest, where you’ve got open areas of heath and grazed woodland areas.”

Mr Roughton said Knettishall Heath’s wildlife interest had suffered for 30 years and it was the charity’s job to “stem and turn around that decline”.

He added: “If you look back 30 years the area of open space at Knettishall has shrunk hugely largely due to woodland cover spreading out and fragmenting the remaining areas of open landscape.

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“We want to unify the open bits of landscape that are now separated within three blocks, so you feel in an open landscape, but it will contain trees as well. It’s about identifying what the key habitats are at Knettishall, the species that make it special and ensuring our management work creates opportunities for them in the future but also that reflects the historic landscape that people enjoy.”

The plans also include an area where dogs can be walked off the lead all year round so ground nesting birds are not disturbed and a permissive bridleway to boost public access.

It is hoped the project will lead to species like Nightjar returning to the area as well as ensuring the survival of all four species of Suffolk reptile and the highly restricted grey carpet moth and basil-thyme casebearer.

Mr Roughton said funding from Wren and support from Natural England had helped create a “fantastic opportunity.”

See the full plans at