For Father’s Day at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse we had a celebration of boys toys. Our courtyard was bursting with tractors and our Skills for the Future trainees had a prominent role. Our Historic Engines team, Jason and Richard, were running some stationary engines from our steam boiler. Also Alex our, Apprentice Farrier, was making shoes for our heavy horses.
The weather was kind (for once) and everyone had a lovely day with great visitor numbers.
Alex was out giving demonstrations to the public under a gazebo in the courtyard. Alex divides his time between working with us and his brother, a trained farrier who currently shoes our five Suffolk Punch horses. Alex, is currently on a 6 year Apprenticeship which includes 5 years farrier training and a one year blacksmith course. He is building up his portfolio here at Gressenhall while also studying, over several 4 week periods, in college where he does lots of theory work and has to pass exams.
Going and talking to Alex I could see that he is very passionate about the work he does and he spoke of how much he has enjoyed being at Gressenhall so far.
For Father’s Day, rather than being tucked away in the museum’s forge placed him – and his mobile gas forge – at the centre of all the action, so that visitors could watch him to get a real experience of seeing a farrier at work. Every time I went past him on the day he always had a crowd around him, asking questions and getting really involved. Alex was more than happy chatting to the visitors and explaining the process of making shoes.
It did make for slow work, as everything was quite stop/start as he paused to answer questions, but the main aim for the day was for its demonstration purpose and in that respect it was a huge success.
We also had our steam guys Richard and Jason out with the coal fired Garrett boiler as well as running some stationary engines. At the museum we have a dedicated volunteer team who keep the engines in workable order with Richard and Jason coming in and helping out a couple days a week. They also spend one day each week at the North Norfolk Railway, learning about – and working with – their steam trains.
By the end of their 6 months Richard and Jason will be qualified to lead Steam Up days and both are keen to get even more engines up and running, as well as some of the tractors we have hidden away next to the laundry.
They relayed to me how much they are learning about steam engines and how enjoyable it is to be given the opportunity to work with them.
Father’s Day was a mixed success for them. As the engines are quite hidden towards the rear of they weren’t sure that all visitors had found them. However, there was a steady stream of very interested people very keen on watching the engines running – even cheering when they got another one started up.
They had pulled out all the stops as every engine that can run was out and kept going throughout the day. Richard said that it was down to Jason manning the fire that everything kept chugging away.
Our Father’s Day event goes to show that this project has the great potential to showcase the traditional skills and related equipment that ordinarily people would not have the chance to see
Overall for the museum Father’s Day was a great success and our Skills for the Future trainees had an important part to play in that.