New beech trees mark jubilee and �200,000 of improvements at Gressenham Farm and Workhouse near Dereham

Two new beech trees at the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse will mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the completion of �200,000 worth of improvements at the popular tourist attraction.

The works, carried out over the winter break, have seen the museum shop moved to a more central position in an effort to increase revenue on big event days.

The shop's old home has been turned into a new welcoming point, including an information screen about what is happening that day, and accessible toilets and baby changing facilities introduced following visitor feedback.

Car parking arrangements have also been altered, with a new one way system introduced on big event days, such as apple day or village at war, to improve safety when up to 1,000 cars can arrive on site.

Robin Hanley, west area manager for the Norfolk Museum Service, said: 'On our busier event days we can have up to 3,000 people here. 'It's on those kind of occasions where the site has been on the edge in terms of facilities that people rightly expect, so we have responded to that with these improvements.

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'Most of the investment in the site has been about making sure we retain a good level of customer care and looking at how we can maximise income and reduce costs in the future. The shop is a good example of that.'

Funding for the changes has come from Norfolk County Council and the Government's Renaissance in the Regions scheme for museums, and other changes have included improvements to displays, new pathways and carpets.

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Shelagh Hutson, chairman of Norfolk County Council, planted one of two beech trees this morning.

Mr Hanley said the choice was appropriate, as the site already has an avenue of beech trees leading up to the workhouse building, which was known as Beech House when it became a residential home for the elderly after the second world war.

Children from Gressenhall Playgroup continued the jubilee theme by planting red, white and blue flowers.

Barry Stone, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for cultural services, said: 'This latest county council investment will only further enhance the enjoyment of visiting Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.'

The attraction is now preparing for its spring fair, complete with traditional fairground rides and an Easter bonnet parade, on Easter Monday, April 9.

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