�100,000 needed to buy Knettishall Heath

Funding to secure a swathe of heathland for generations to come is one step closer following the approval of grant funding – but more money is still needed.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust has been awarded its biggest ever grant –�720,000 – in order to buy Knettishall Heath in a move which is being described as the “most ambitious” land purchase in the organisation’s history.

However, the trust now needs to raise �100,000 with the help of the public by the end of January in order to complete the deal.

The heath, near Thetford, is currently leased by Suffolk County Council but if the purchase goes ahead the council would also gift the trust nearby riverside meadows.

Surrounding woodland would be incorporated, turning Knettishall Heath into the largest of the trust’s 50 nature reserves and five miles of new nature trails would be created.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s West Suffolk reserve warden, Kerry Vaughan, said were plans to introduce a herd of Exmoor ponies to Knettishall Heath to help maintain the open landscape and scattered trees which many species rely on were also being prepared.

She added: “The lottery grant has put this purchase within reach.

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“We now have to raise �100,000 by the end of January to secure the future of the site. Thanks to the funding we have already secured, every �1 people give will help us buy �10 of habitat.

“Buying Knettishall Heath will protect it forever, so wildlife can thrive and everyone can continue to enjoy it.”

Of the 12,500 species living in the Brecks, 30pc are nationally rare, and some, like the grey carpet moth and maiden pink, found at Knettishall Heath, are a Breckland speciality.

Special geology has created a rich plant community and the Little Ouse river meanders along the northern boundary. The trust hopes to recreate riverbed features such as riffles and pools and reconnect the river to the water meadows and wet woodland alongside it.

Donations have already been pledged from residents and several fundraising events have been organised.

These include a big splash planned by county councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer, who will immerse himself in the Little River Ouse on January 28 to raise funds, and health walk leaders and trust staff will amble around Knettishall Heath on January 27.

The trust has also been in touch with groups with an interest in the site, including local schools.

To donate to the appeal visit the Suffolk Wildlife Trust website at www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org or call 01473 890089.