Families flock to Norfolk open farms

Families flocked to farms across Norfolk and Suffolk yesterday to learn about sheep shearing, cow milking and some really big tractors.

Farm gates were opened across the country as part of the sixth annual Open Farm Sunday event.

Organised by Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), it aims to show people the important work taking place in our countryside from producing food to caring for animals and the environment.

At Norton's Dairy, at Church Farm, Frettenham, near Norwich, visitors also saw the role the farm played in its community with local groups and organisations taking part in the event based at the village hall.

As parents enjoyed cream teas and youngsters made milk-bottle elephants, Emily Norton, partner and marketing director, said: 'People come to this sort of thing because it's a fun place to bring the kids but we really hope they learn something while they are here too.

'You can tell people a million times it's good to eat a healthy, balanced diet and encourage them to shop locally but you often don't communicate why. We hope, if people can see and understand that their choices make a real difference to the environment and the way animals are kept, those messages will really get through.'

Visitors were encouraged to take a walking tour through the farm to watch some of the dairy's 70 Holstein-Friesian cows being milked, see the calving pens and have a quick look at the maternity pens.

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In the north of the county, it was a display of giant machinery that captured the imaginations of youngsters visiting the Holkham Estate.

Although best known to visitors for its grand stately hall and stunning deer-filled park, Viscount Coke's estate has 9,000 acres of farmland.

Farm manager Mark Bowyer said: 'We have lots of events in the park and lots of visitors, but they often don't realise there is a lot more there than a tourist attraction.

'We are a relatively large farm operation so the equipment is pretty big. I think that's what people notice first when they get here – just how big everything is.'

As well as getting a chance to sit in a tractor, visitors got the chance to see combine harvesters and ploughs in action, and some sheep shearing.

Bowes Farm at Saham Toney, near Watton, Park Farm in Swanton Morley, near Dereham, and Vicarage Farm at Linstead Parva, near Halesworth, were among many others which opened their gates yesterday.

Nationally, 450 farms were expected to hold events. In 2010, 184,000 people visited working farms across the country.

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