Village offers tranquillity - owned by a few but with lots to offer

Village Feature - Knettishall
Village Feature - Knettishall
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Knettishall belongs almost entirely to three landowners and is a village dominated by a farm and a wildlife park.

When the Suffolk Wildlife Trust bought Knettishall Heath in 2012, it was its most ambitious land purchase.

Village Feature - Knettishall''Pictured: Nick, Becky and daughter Eloise Wilcox who live in a converted church

Village Feature - Knettishall''Pictured: Nick, Becky and daughter Eloise Wilcox who live in a converted church

The Breckland-based nature reserve is home to some rare species and, with features that include an 18th century rabbit warren and a Bronze Age burial mound, it is also a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Chairman of the local history group Robert Hogg said the park’s ‘Red Arch’ pool was the social centre of the village.

He added: “We’re all delighted that the trust took it over because they seem to be looking after it really well. It’s a great bit of countryside for people who walk their dogs and it’s a great asset for the local area.”

John Bucher owns nine of 11 properties in Knettishall, the two exceptions being Knettishall House and All Saints’ Church, which has now been converted into a home.

Exmoor ponies were released at Knettishall by nature writer and Times journalist Simon Barnes to celebrate completion of the purchase by Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Exmoor ponies were released at Knettishall by nature writer and Times journalist Simon Barnes to celebrate completion of the purchase by Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

He ran a dairy farm with 500 cows when he first moved to the village, but in 1988 he sold out of the dairy trade and turned to arable farming.

His family now owns around 1,500 acres of arable land. They joined Natural England’s higher level stewardship scheme in 2009, promoting environmentally-friendly farming practices.

These include providing wet grassland for breeding waders, creating field margins which are important for species and habitats and providing over-wintered stubbles to provide seed food for birds through the winter.

John’s son, James, said: “I feel it’s important because you’re always reading about species in decline and a proportion of that blame probably lies with the farmers who aren’t giving these species any land to live on. So, we thought we ought to give a little back.”

Nick Wilcox bought Knettishall’s disused, derelict church in 1984 having watched it ‘gradually get pulled to bits’ over the years. He converted it into a home and moved into it from neighbouring Coney Weston in December 1989.

“I must admit, compared to everywhere else, Knettishall is really tranquil,” he said.

Airbase, museum and memorial:

Knettishall has a former airbase which was used by the USAAF 388th Bombardment Group (H), which flew Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, from 1943-45.

A memorial to the group, which was dedicated by survivors in May 1986, can be found at the Coney Weston crossroads.

David Sarson’s Market Weston farm has a museum which holds memorabilia from the American servicemen. It is free to visit but only open by appointment.