Photo gallery: Blakeney pupils welcome Alex the Suffolk Punch to their new woodland ‘classroom’

Alex the Suffolk Punch horse and owner Jeff Shea giving a logging demo at Blakeney Primary School.PH

Alex the Suffolk Punch horse and owner Jeff Shea giving a logging demo at Blakeney Primary School.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

When youngsters from Blakeney Primary School popped down to the woods they were certainly in for a surprise – when they were greeted by a special four-legged visitor.

Alex the Suffolk Punch trotted into the school's new woodland area to show off his log hauling skills in front of an excited crowd of pupils.

With his handler Jeff Shea, from the Wolterton and Mannington estate, and Richard Dalton from the Gressenhall Museum, the four-year-old chestnut horse pulled huge chunks of wood across the grass, enjoyed a nibble of the trees and stood patiently as the children admired his glossy coat.

The school was gifted the land by neighbouring St Nicholas' Church and it is now hoped it will become an outdoor space for education and recreation, that will be used by Blakeney pupils and students at its fellow federation schools.

In April, Blakeney linked up with primary schools in Kelling, Walsingham and Hindringham to form the Pilgrim Federation, and they now share executive headteacher Mary Dolan and a single governing body.

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As part of the management plan for the woodland, Alex and Jeff – a member of the British Horse Loggers – will be making regular visits to move and clear felled logs using traditional methods, which staff were keen to employ.

Governor Carolyn Burn said: 'We don't want to start bringing tonnes of machinery on. It's much better to use something like the horse, he's going to be a working part of what we do in the future.

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'And we don't want to lose that part of our history.

'You can show this to the pupils in a book but it's nowhere near as exciting, if instead they can see it in front of their eyes.'

During Alex's visit on Monday the children learnt about how his harness and tack worked to help him move the logs, and were able to ask questions about his breed, weight, height and diet.

Since becoming a federation the schools have already seen benefits from the joint working, such as the formation of a federation football club and giving the children a chance to socialise with each other.

'We've got lots of people bringing a lot of different talents and abilities to the table,' Mrs Burn added.

'The nice thing is we get the benefits of being part of something bigger and the children can reap the rewards from a relationship point of view.

'So far it's looking very exciting.'

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