Suffolk Punch revival planned

For centuries the powerful Suffolk Punch horse cleaved clods of heavy clay into fields of rich crops in East Anglia.Now the breed which drove the region's agricultural revolution is making a comeback.

For centuries the powerful Suffolk Punch horse cleaved clods of heavy clay to help create fields of rich crops in East Anglia.

Now the breed which drove the region's agricultural revolution is making a comeback.

The county's largest museum and working farm in Gressenhall, near Dereham, has embarked on an ambitious programme to expand its herd of four Suffolk Punches.

The animals are a common sight around the farm, tilling its fields ready for seasonal crops or heaving cartloads of visitors on guided tours.

They are notoriously difficult to breed and the programme is continuing despite an early setback when 16-year-old Queenie's pregnancy failed to develop.

Museum manager Stuart Gillis said: "The plan is for us to be working on breeding Suffolks on a regular basis.

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"In many ways they are a centrepiece to the farm and what we do. While they are part of our history, they are very relevant in a contemporary sense, too.

"They run on biomass rather than diesel and have no carbon footprint.

"This is not about nostalgia; it's about the environment, food miles and all the green issues which are so important today.

"People no longer want food produced on the other side of the world; they want to discover all the great stuff on offer on their doorstep."

Mr Gillis is keen to ditch text-heavy noticeboards in favour of hands-on exper-ience such as getting behind a working plough or lively discussion on the farm tour.

The farm is continuing to grow, with new shelters planned for the horses along with a new trough and drinking fountain.

Mr Gillis's approach seems to be working: this year, the museum and farm saw record visitor figures for the fifth year in the row.