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Special Areas of Conservation


Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Country England
Unitary Authority East Anglia
Centroid* TL862948
Latitude 52.51888889
Longitude 0.745
SAC EU Code UK0019865
Status Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Area (ha) 7543.5
* This is the approximate central point of the SAC. In the case of large, linear or composite sites, this may not represent the location where a feature occurs within the SAC.
Location of Breckland SAC

General site character

  • Inland water bodies (Standing water, Running water) (0.5%)
  • Bogs, Marshes, Water fringed vegetation, Fens (1%)
  • Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (20%)
  • Dry grassland, Steppes (59.4%)
  • Improved grassland (0.2%)
  • Other arable land (0.1%)
  • Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (9%)
  • Coniferous woodland (5%)
  • Mixed woodland (4%)
  • Inland rocks, Screes, Sands, Permanent Snow and ice (0.5%)
  • Other land (including Towns, Villages, Roads, Waste places, Mines, Industrial sites) (0.3%)

Download the Standard Data Form for this site as submitted to Europe (PDF <100kb)

Note When undertaking an appropriate assessment of impacts at a site, all features of European importance (both primary and non-primary) need to be considered.

Annex I habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • Wangford Warren and adjoining parts of RAF Lakenheath are included in the Breckland site as the only occurrence of this habitat type in the UK. The site has one of the best-preserved systems of active inland sand dunes in the UK. The habitat type, which is in part characterised by the nationally rare grey hair-grass Corynephorus canescens occurring here at its only inland station, is associated with open conditions with active sand movement. The site shows the colonisation sequence from open sand to acidic grass-heath.

  • The Breckland meres in Norfolk represent natural eutrophic lakes in the east of England. They are examples of hollows within glacial outwash deposits and are fed by water from the underlying chalk aquifer. Natural fluctuations in groundwater tables mean that these lakes occasionally dry out. The flora is dominated by stonewort – pondweed CharaceaePotamogetonaceae associations.

  • The dry heaths of Breckland are representative of European dry heaths in East Anglia, in eastern England, developed under a semi-continental climate. Breckland has an average annual precipitation of only 600 mm, relatively hot summers and cold winters. Frosts can occur in any month of the year. The dry acidic heath of Breckland represents H1 Calluna vulgarisFestuca ovina heath in the SAC series. The sand sedge-dominated Carex arenaria sub-community (H1d) is typical of areas of blown sand – a very unusual feature of this location. The highly variable soils of Breckland, with underlying chalk being largely covered with wind-blown sands, have resulted in mosaics of heather-dominated heathland, acidic grassland and calcareous grassland that are unlike those of any other site. In many places there is a linear or patterned distribution of heath and grassland, arising from fossilised soil patterns that formed under peri-glacial conditions. Breckland is important for rare plants, such as perennial knawel Scleranthus perennis ssp. prostratus, and rare invertebrates.

  • Breckland in East Anglia is the most extensive surviving area of the rare grassland type CG7 Festuca ovinaHieracium pilosellaThymus praecox grassland. The grassland is rich in rare species typical of dry, winter-cold, continental areas, and approaches the features of grassland types in central Europe more than almost any other semi-natural dry grassland found in the UK. The terrain is relatively flat, with few physical variations, but there are mosaics of calcareous grassland and heath/acid grassland, giving rise to patterns of structural variation.

Annex I habitats present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for selection of this site

Annex II species that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • Not Applicable

Annex II species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.