Gressenhall Farm diary: Meet the chestnut beauties that keep things moving
PUBLISHED: 12:44 12 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:47 12 May 2020
As part of a weekly diary, curator MEGAN DENNIS from Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse talks about Suffolk punches, turkeys and swifts.
Last week we heard about how Trojan had lost his horse shoes! Trojan is just one of six Suffolk Punch horses we have on the farm. The Suffolk Punch is a rare breed of heavy horse.
The Suffolk Punch was developed during the 16th century for farm work and was popular at the beginning of the 20th century because it is strong, energetic and patient.
Suffolk Punches are always chestnut in colour, varying from a dark red through to light mealy colour, and some have white flashes on their faces. They tend to be small (for working horses) and stocky.
A traditional saying describes them as having ‘A face like an angel, a body like a barrel and a rump like a good farmer’s wife!’
As well as farm work they pulled heavy artillery at wartime.
The breed almost disappeared in the middle of the 20th century because tractors took over the work they did on farms.
The breed’s status is currently critical in the UK, although many Amish farms in America use horses descended from the Suffolk Punch.
In the UK the small numbers still remaining (less than 300) are used on heritage farms like ours but also for traditional forestry tasks where tractors can’t get in between the trees.
At Gressenhall we currently have six Suffolks – Trojan, Bowler, Jimbo, young Casper, Reg and Remus. We have had Suffolks at the farm since the late 1980s – many of our regular visitors will remember Zulu and Zebedee, Queenie, George and Casper.
Queenie came to us from Holt where she used to pull passengers on a cart from the railway station to the town centre. Trojan and Bowler are now over 20 years old – quite old for a Suffolk.
They are the oldest horses we have had on the farm. They don’t do too much work anymore, they are too tired.
But Trojan loves to pull the tumbril (a traditional two-wheeled wagon) and he is very strong and dependable. He is slow, steady and patient!
Bowler is easily recognisable because he has a white flash on his face. He is a big softy and the other horses like to boss him around.
Remus and Reg do most of the hard work on the farm.
If you have enjoyed one of our farm horse and cart rides recently you were probably pulled by Remus and Reg. They are younger than Trojan and Bowler so have a bit more stamina and can keep going for longer.
They are also steady and good – we can depend on them! Jimbo is the naughty one – we have to be firm with him to make sure he pays attention and does as he is told.
And we are not sure about young Casper yet as he hasn’t been broken in yet. We are planning on introducing him to farm work this spring – we’ll let you know how he gets on.
All the horses were visited by our farrier this week.
Trojan had managed to kick off his front shoes so he got a new pair and the others got a good check over.
Spring is generally a quiet time for the horses on the farm. Apart from the cart rides the only other job they have is to pull the chain harrow to clear weeds from between the crops in the fields.
Turkey eggs went into the incubator this week.
Turkey eggs take around 28 days to hatch so we’ll let you know as soon as we have turkey chicks. We put the eggs into the incubator because turkeys are useless parents and hardly ever manage to hatch and rear chicks on their own.
The dipping night time temperatures have meant our young potato plants have suffered a bit of scorching – but look like they should survive. We hope the potatoes growing in your gardens and allotments are safe too.
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Finally the swifts are back.
Regular visitors will know they nest in the roof at the workhouse and are a common sight and sound screeching during the summer at Gressenhall. It is lovely to welcome them back.
•Gressenhall Farm have teamed up with the Dereham Times/Eastern Daily Press to bring you a weekly diary of what is going on behind the scenes at the farm
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