Breckland has one of the most distinctive landscapes in the UK and boasts its best overall climate with low rainfall

Birthplace of Thomas Paine, whose thinking encouraged American independence

The area comprises vast forests of native coniferous softwood, unique lines of Scots pines called ‘Deal rows’ that are derelict hedgerows, patches of classic historic heathland that were formed thousands of years ago by the felling and burning of forests for grazing land, and wide arable fields. Also unique to the Breckland are the prehistoric Pingos.

The gateway to Breckland is the ancient town of Thetford, which is a perfect base from which to begin your exploration of the area’s diversity, its outstanding wildlife, rich history and fun outdoor activities.

This is the birthplace of 18th century radical Thomas Paine, whose thinking encouraged American independence and the abolition of slavery, and where the BBC’s Dad’s Army was filmed – look out for statues of Paine and Captain Mainwaring in the town centre.

To the north is the beautifully-preserved market town of Swaffham (where Tutankhamen archaeologist Howard Carter grew up – there’s an Egyptian exhibition in Swaffham Museum), the National Trust’s moated Oxburgh Hall (in the village of Oxborough), Gooderstone Water Gardens and Castle Acre, run by English Heritage. To the east is Dereham, the centre point of the county, where you can ride the Mid-Norfolk Railway to Wymondham Abbey. Watton is another market town worth exploring.

On the A11 towards Norwich is the village-like Attleborough and close by is the renowned Peter Beales’ Roses, winner of many Chelsea Flower Show awards, the English Whisky Company at St George’s Distillery and the thirty-acre Banham Zoo, where you can see big cats including snow leopards, as well as giraffes, apes and monkeys.