Gressenhall museum ready to spring into life for the new season

When the gates of Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse open this Sunday after four months of hard work behind closed doors, visitors will be greeted by a series of new and updated attractions.

There is a smell of fresh paint along the corridors, the sound of hammering somewhere in the background, and the sight of workers spreading play bark around a new slide.

But, by the time the gates of Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse open this Sunday after four months of hard work behind closed doors, all that will be gone.

Instead, visitors will be greeted by a series of new and updated attractions which aim to tempt even more people to explore the attraction.

Steve Harris, operations manager at Gressenhall, said: 'People come here anyway because they know the site and know what a lovely day it is – it's a great site to come to with children.

'But it's good to be able to have these new things to attract new visitors and encourage our existing clientele back.'

Among the changes is a new toddler area in the popular woodland playground, which has also been given a winter facelift.

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Aimed at children under five, it includes a mixture of swings, slides, a play fort and climbing board.

A �9,670 grant from the Big Lottery's Awards for All programme, and a further �2,000 from fundraising, has also allowed the Friends of Gressenhall to transform the Wildlife Garden.

Chairman Christine Walters said: 'The garden was put in about 20-odd years ago. It has won awards in the past but volunteers get old, the thugs of the plant world take over, and it suffered from a bit of neglect.'

The new design has involved creating a new pathway around a central pond which is surrounded by wrought iron fencing.

'The aim of the garden is to encourage our visitors to take home ideas that they can use to encourage wildlife into their own back yards,' said Mrs Walters.

A willow indoor bird hide will also give visitors a chance to spy on the many birds hidden around the farm. The St Nicholas Barn Nature Watch area, within the museum, will offer a space to watch footage from a number of cameras dotted round the site.

Mr Harris added: 'With an extra camera in one of our barn owl boxes, we're also hoping to catch sight of some new Gressenhall owls this year.'

Work continues on the Land Girls and Lumber Gills Gallery which is set to open in late spring, giving visitors a reason to return later in the season. The exhibition will focus on the tales of four Norfolk Land Army workers from the first and second world wars.

The site attracted 70,000 visitors last year and is the second most popular Norfolk museum after Norwich Castle. Norfolk County Council has also invested in wall and window insulation, as well as new energy-efficient lighting, to bring running costs at the former workhouse down.

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse will be open to visitors seven days a week from Sunday until October.