Next page 

In June 1998 I organised an expedition to Breckland to collect Breckland thyme.  This was arranged in association with my colleague, Graham Walters of the Alpine Unit at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and is now known as the Easter Easter Leonard Walters (EELW) expedition.  (My husband, who did the driving, is the second Easter in the expedition.)

Breckland is an area of sandy heathland, with a very low annual rainfall, on the Norfolk Suffolk borders around Thetford and Mildenhall.  It is also home to RAF and USAF airbases and much of it is covered in conifer plantations.

The majority of Breckland thyme grows in SSSIs, most of which are privately owned.  Permission had to be obtained from the landowner and from English Nature.  Two of the sites are also nesting sites for stone curlews, so permission had to be obtained from the RSPB and access was limited to a maximum of twenty minutes for each of these sites.  The birds fly off their nests as soon as a vehicle arrives, but take no notice of the constant sounds of fighter aircraft taking off, low flying and landing!  I also had to liaise with the Breckland botanist, Yvonne Leonard, who escorted us around the various sites.

All the sites are rabbit grazed and the soil is very sandy.  Detailed notes were taken of the other plants growing at each site, an accurate record was made of the position using GPS and photographs were taken of the sites and also close ups of the plants.  The team had to work very fast in the stone curlew nesting areas!  Yvonne Leonard gave permission for us to collect roots, so sufficient material was taken for the National Plant Collections® and for Kew.

The plants are now being bulked up and in due course will be used in the DNA studies to determine whether there are any links between the two species.  The Breckland thyme we collected can be seen growing on the rock garden at Kew.

To see an enlarged version of a picture click on the relevant picture.

Breckland thyme growing in bare sandy
soil at Rampart's Field, Icklingham, Suffolk

Breckland thyme growing in grass at
Deadman's Grave, Icklingham, Suffolk

Breckland thyme growing in Dr. Watt's Soil
Profile Trench, Lakenheath Warren, Suffolk

Breckland thyme growing in the bridle path
at Lakenheath Warren, Suffolk

Breckland thyme growing on the edge of
the bridle path at Lakenheath Warren, Suffolk

Detail of Breckland thyme growing on
the edge of the bridle path


Thetford Warren Lodge, Norfolk

A large area of Breckland thyme about
1 metre across growing with lichen in
sandy soil at Thetford Warren Lodge,

Detail of Breckland thyme at Thetford Warren
Lodge. This site had the most extreme
conditions of all those we visited.  Apart from
the bushes alongside the road, practically the
only vegetation other than Breckland thyme
was the large quantity of lichen species.

Photographs © 1998  Margaret Easter.  No copying or reproduction permitted


 Next page   Top