Like so much else in this unique area, farmland also has a different character within the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The grazed open heaths that are now farmland were not enclosed with hedges until much later than the rest of Suffolk, if at all. Consequently, the farmland within the AONB is generally more open than elsewhere in the county.
Modern intensive farming techniques have made it possible to work the light, sandy soils successfully, although irrigation is often needed. Agricultural land is now the most prevalent land type in the AONB, and large fields of cereals, vegetables and turf are a common sight. Outdoor pig units are now a feature as part of the agricultural crop rotation on the light soils. More traditional grazing by cattle can still be found, particularly on marshes in the river valleys, and sheep are still found grazing the heathland, although now largely for nature conservation objectives.
Saltmarsh and the mudflats that once fringed the channels of the river estuaries have also been put to use by farmers. As far back as the 12th century, river walls have been built along the edges of these estuaries ‘reclaiming’ saltmarsh and mudflat from the sea and locking this land up behind river walls. Drainage then made these suitable for agriculture. Some of these drained areas have since been flooded again, allowing a rich variety of wildlife to return.
What can be seen here...
Plants: field poppy, common mallow, lady’s bedstraw, alexanders.
Birds: skylark, corn bunting, yellowhammer, grey partridge.
Other wildlife: look out for ancient hedges containing a variety of plant species. Brown hare are a common sight in many areas.
Other features: on the farmland beside estuaries you can see estuary birds at high tide, breeding waders (redshank, lapwing), or geese grazing.