My time at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse

I arrived at Gressenhall knowing very little about farming. I was vaguely interested in history and I knew I wanted to have a smallholding when I was older. However the industrious commercial farms had no attraction to me. When the opportunity arose to come to Gressenhall I jumped at the chance and from the first day that I saw the advert I dreamt of getting the job and the things that I would learn on the farm.

Ploughing with Trojan and Bowler with Ransomes Plough

Since I have been here I have really enjoyed working the horses and learning about Victorian agriculture and the agricultural revolution. Aside from this I have been attending college one day per week in order to achieve my level 2 NVQ in mixed agriculture. This has given me a sound footing in agricultural knowledge that I can apply here on the farm as well as in future work. Before I came to Gressenhall I had not worked with horses, however I was keen to give it a go. The first time I walked through the gate into the stable with the horses it hit me just how much power they had, but only for a second, because I knew that if I was to work the horses properly I would need to put their capabilities to the back of my mind.

Oscar getting Bowler ready

Skills for the future has also benefited me in other ways, as well as providing the amazing opportunity to work the horses it has paid for me to do my MO1 tractor driving and my Veterinary medicine certificate. College paid for me to take my CS30/31 chainsaw certificate and also provided me with useful information and resources to learn even more from. The income from my job has allowed me to take driving lessons, pass my test and buy and insure a small truck which is very handy. It has also enabled me to indulge my acquired interest in old agricultural books and items.

Oscar using Caspar

In my time here I am happy with the progress that I have made both working the horses and learning how to keep the livestock and the land. I have built up a good relationship with the horses and I have also made some great friends too. In my final few weeks of my apprenticeship, I will be visiting other museums that work horses in order to learn more and make good contacts for the future.

Potato Spinning with Horses from Side

I will hopefully pass my L2 BDS Grooms certificate in the upcoming weeks. This is a new certificate endorsed by QCF. It will be very useful in the future to show my competence at handling a horse to a recognised level. I hope to go on in life to forge a career in working horses within a commercial environment and prove that if you have the will to do it a way can be found to use horses in a viable manner.

Oscar Smith

Winter on the Farm

Winter on the Farm

Hannah and I have finally thawed out from the freezing cold and are enjoy the somewhat tropical temperature of 10 degrees down at Gressenhall farm. As I didn’t last time, I shall take a few words to introduce myself, my name is Tom Watson and I am the other half of the Heritage Landscape Management trainee team. We are now four months through the scheme and are still thoroughly enjoying it! Like Hannah, I am an Environmental Science graduate from the University of East Anglia and I have a keen interest in the history of the UK’s landscape and the environment. I have previously worked on a farm and my most of family are linked to agriculture in some way. And so when this traineeship at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse became available it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to gain skills to help me build a future in an area that I am truly interested in.

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The Snow! This may come as no surprise but the considerable amount of snow we have had in the past couple of weeks greatly reduced our ability to perform a lot of conservation work. Our priority during the snow was to care for the animals and so we spend most of our time making sure everyone was fed, watered and in good health. This often involved taking a sledge hammer on the feeding rounds just to break the ice in the water troughs! Even though it was hard work at times it was a nice change to experience trying to work in such conditions. It also provided some lovely photos, of which there are many…

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Even with all the snow we still managed to get the chainsaws out. We took the opportunity to cut up a large ash tree that had blown over in the water meadows a couple of months before. There won’t be any shortage of firewood next year!

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Hannah undertakes her weekly placement with the Hawk and Owl Trust at Sculthorpe moor while I am working with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s woodland team at Foxley Wood. On my placement we work in a specified block of woodland that needs to be coppiced, this involves cutting the trees down, removing any wood that can be used for poles or binders and burning any excess material that is left over. I have also had the opportunity to go over to the NWT’s reserve at Holt to inspect their ponies and repair the fences on site. It is always very interesting going on placement and seeing how such an established organisation performs conservation work on a large scale. I learn a lot every time I go and I am looking forward to undertaking all of my other future placements.

Even though the snow has been a bit tricky to work around for the past couple of weeks, work on our projects still progresses. The boardwalk leading from the farm to the river is entering its final stages and should be completed and fully non-slip for half term.

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The work we do with Alison Marchant towards our Level 2 diploma in Environmental Conservation continues well. We have had lots of opportunities to practice our hedgelaying and we are now moving onto advanced training, which will give us the knowledge to be able to lay more difficult and complex hedges. We were also able to clean out the bird and owl boxes around the farm and make sure that the cameras inside them are all working. With this done we can see inside them and hopefully see some eggs hatching!

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We have also been able to go on a couple more training courses that have allowed us to get on and help out more around the Farm and Museum. Before Christmas we had a two day tractor training course and before the snow hit we undertook a wood chipper course. These were both very interesting and helpful to me and Hannah and have given us even more skills and qualifications that we can take away with us at the end of our traineeships. It also meant that we could finally clear out the museums compost heap so that it can start fresh!

In the next few weeks myself, Hannah and all of the others down at Gressenhall Farm will be working to make the site ready for the first opening of this year at February half term. Something which we are all looking forward to!

Tom and Hannah   

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