The ‘British Driving Society Level 2 Harness Horse Groom’s Diploma, Working with Horses in Agriculture and Land Based Activities’ and other events of the last few weeks

On Monday 15th July Ben and I went down to Swingletree Farm, near Diss, to have a horse and cart road driving assessment day. The day involved about 6 hours of road driving between us both and we each drove two pairs of horses.  The first pair was two 17hh grey coach horses and the second, 14hh Connemara ponies. The day was great fun and a very enlightening experience; we both learnt a lot and gained considerable driving knowledge. The purpose was for the assessors at the farm to judge our skills base and inform Richard Dalton how long they believed it would take us to pass the road driving test.  This test and future road driving experience will be completed after the main summer season at Gressenhall, as during the next six weeks, both Ben and myself are going to be extremely busy. Despite our full schedule we will still be taking the time to fill in our evidence forms for our qualification, proving that we have undertaken certain horse based activities (such as grooming), a set number of times to deem us experienced enough to be awarded with our diplomas at the end of our 18 month apprenticeship. 


Dani at Swingletree Farm


Ben and I have also recently completed our Brushcutter course, which was a full day of taking apart the machinery, looking at its engine, learning how to replace its parts and then experiencing the correct and safest way to use it on our site. On top of this we have also swapped around our rotas in order to have one of us working every Sunday of the summer holidays so that we can offer a better and more satisfying visitor experience over the weekend.

I love the driving aspect of my job.  Getting to drive the horses around our farm track with passengers riding behind is brilliant, and it’s something I have always enjoyed about this museum.  My mum was having a dig through old photo albums recently and found this photo of me when I was 7 years old, standing by one of the previous Suffolk Punch’s and with Richard Dalton driving. It’s a small world! Underneath this photo there is a shot taken of me now in the same place, just look how different it is!


Dani and Richard in 1999


Dani and Richard in 2013

Our time is very busy and yet extremely satisfying here at the museum, and now we have been here for almost 3 months it’s great to be able to start seeing changes in and around the farm, the horses fitness has improved, the crops have grown (and so have the weeds!) and the amount of people on site has increased.  These changes are fantastic to watch and be a part of, and they make working here that much more enjoyable!

Dani Chatten

Skills for the Future Heritage Farming Apprentice.


‘EX’ Skills for the Future Trainee

News of one of our ‘EX’ Skills for the Future Trainees.

At the weekend Jason, Heritage Engineering Trainee, was driving the steam engine Little Barford at Weeting Steam Rally.

Jason in his 'Ex' Skills for the Future shirt

DSC_0206Jason is now employed at North Norfolk Railway and took leave from his new job to help out at Weeting Steam Rally this weekend.




He was wearing his ‘EX’ Skills for the Future shirt, and working hard  in the heat of the engine.  Last year at Weeting he drove a locomotive for the first time. This year he was in charge, and capable of looking after the engine himself.

Show Time

Since starting in May, I have been very busy down on the farm. Some of the jobs I have been involved in have been drilling fodder beet, hoeing potatoes, muck carting, horse and cart rides plus many more.

But, not all of the work takes place on the farm. Richard, Hannah, Dani and I all attended the Royal Norfolk Show representing Gressenhall on the Norfolk County Council stand. At the show we were promoting Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, but also showing and explaining to many different people what the Heritage Lottery Funded Skills for the Future programme was all about.


New Norfolk Horn Sheep

New Norfolk Horn Sheep

To the show we took four New Norfolk Horn Sheep. The sheep were used to demonstrate how shearing used to be done before we had modern equipment. The shearing unit we were using was a Wolseley one and it is about a hundred years old. As well as the mechanical hand powered shears, Richard also used hand shears. As you can see from the picture below Richard is shearing and I am turning the handle to power the handset.


Left to right, Modern handset, handset for the hand powered shearer, hand shears

Left to right, Modern handset, handset for the hand powered shearer, hand shears

In addition to the sheep we also took along some of the items we have down on the farm. These included such things as horse shoes and a pig restrainer. Also we took with us Gressenhall’s famous interactive milking simulator. This gave people a chance to feel what it is like to milk a cow. As you can see from the picture below we set out the items on some bales and chatted with the visitors to try and get them to guess what each item was.


As well as working on the farm and the general day to day tasks, my calendar is crammed full of other events, training and tasks. For example, just this week I have had my induction at Easton and Otley College ahead of me studying for my Level 2 Diploma in Mixed farming.

Finally I would just like to thank everyone for making me feel so welcome here at Gressenhall and look forward to lots of fun times during my traineeship and many more blog posts.

Ben Preston – Heritage Farming Apprentice.