Blogger: Kate Blincoe, Communications Manager

When the holidays are here and if by chance the sun should shine, many of us rush to the beach. What is it about the sea air and big horizons that draw us to the coast? However, when you are tired of sand in your sandwiches, it is worth remembering that a trip inland can give you that same holiday spirit and sense of escape from the everyday.

Thetford Forest is a gem on our doorstep just waiting to be explored. There is something magical about large forests, taking us back to fairytale memories of childhood and adventure. Thetford Forest manages to combine being the largest lowland commercial conifer forest in the country with being a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a fantastic day out.

Now, I have to confess to a prior misperception about commercial forestry. I had an image of it as dark and lifeless, but my eyes have been opened to the way it is done in Thetford. As the Friends of Thetford Forest have explained to me, it is all about the mosaic. Not just for the Romans, this means creating a patchwork network of a variety of different habitats, including heathland and both pine and broadleaved trees at different stages of maturity. This is something the Forestry Commission works very hard to achieve.

This careful management means that if you go down to the woods today, you could have a wildlife surprise. The Forest is home to a third of all the UK’s rare firecrests, the cutest little bird imaginable. It is also vital for thousands of species ranging from the minotaur beetle, rare plants and insects to vibrant populations of nightjar and woodlark, species that outside of the forest are in serious trouble.

There is no single thing that makes the Forest work so well for such a wide range of species. A combination of skilled staff, partnerships with other environmental organisations, careful and precise management of the land, species monitoring and a genuine passion for the area are all key ingredients thrown into the mix.

I thought it was time to discover the secrets of the Forest for myself. My family day out went like this: Woke up early (at toddler o’clock), packed up a picnic and our bikes. We then headed to the High Lodge Forest Centre for wander through the Sculpture trail and a pootle around with our bikes, spotting wildlife as we cycled. Even our summer’s characteristic drizzle wasn’t a problem in the shelter of the trees. Active, educational, outdoors – this was everything a family day out should be in my book.

I’ll bet you’ve driven past Thetford Forest many a time. Maybe like me, you have overlooked the richness of life and significance of the habitats within. Maybe you’d not realised all it offers for a day out. It’s time to get active and explore!


Photo Credit: Forestry Commission.

Article in EDP on Saturday 11 August.