Harvest Continued…..

Following up from my last blog explaining how we had been harvesting the rye, oats and barley down on the farm, (I hoped you all liked it) I thought that as my latest blog coincides with our potato harvest, I would explain a little further.


 Richard with the horses

The way we harvest the potatoes here at Gressenhall is through the use of a horse drawn Ransomes potato spinner. The spinner we use is a later model dating from around the 1940s.




 Bottom blade and tines

As you can see from the picture above, the spinner works by the bottom blade cutting into the ridged row of potatoes and then the spinning tines pushing the crop out to the side. As the blade digs into the row, the soil that is pushed up cushions the potatoes from being bruised and broken during the harvesting process. The spinner is powered by a land wheel connected to a gear box that then powers the spinner mechanism. (See gearbox picture below) When using the machine the operator has control over the depth the blade cuts into the ridge and also the controls to engage the main driving gear. The harvested potato crop is then picked by hand and loaded into a vehicle. In our case we use Trojan in a tumble.

Picture 3 - GearboxGearbox

Picture 4 - Trojan and TumbleTrojan and Tumble

A Little history behind Ransomes

Ransomes, Sims and Jeffries (also known as Ransomes, Ransomes, Sims & Head) based in Ipswich Suffolk, was a British agricultural machinery manufacturers producing a vast range of products including traction engines, ploughs, lawn mowers, combine harvesters and other farming machinery. They also manufactured aeroplanes during the First World War.

Picture 5 - Ransomes name plateRansomes plate

As our harvest is now coming to an end, I look forward to preparing the fields ready to sow next years crop. As I said in my last blog, I cannot wait to get some ploughing done with the horses.

Ben Preston – Heritage Farming Apprentice


Horsing around…

Walking up the pathway and through the wrought iron gates as I look towards the museum I still can’t quite believe that I’m off to do a day’s work! As a social history nerd with a penchant for cooking utensils to be given the opportunity to get behind the scenes, learn all about collections management and gain practical curatorial skills is more than I could have hoped for – not to mention the impressive location.










It is the everyday objects that interest me the most. Not the crown jewels or the Elgin marbles but the jelly mould or an ACME mangle. I believe these objects give us far more scope to understand how our predecessors went about their daily routines and really bring history to life. Originally from Brighton, I moved to Norwich to study history and literature at the UEA and never really left. I spent a summer working as a Heritage Intern at the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre in London before heading back to Norfolk. Starting as one of three new Rural Collections Trainees at Gressenhall has been fantastic and full on. Its now three weeks in and we’ve already donned the white gloves and opened the boxes.


To get a good grip on the necessities of collections management we have been going through the process of organising and categorising one of the museum’s most recent acquisitions (yes- really! we’ve always got room for more!) The new collection is a fascinating array of items donated to the museum by Ray Hubbard, a Norfolk gentleman who worked on a local farm with Suffolk Punches until the 1960’s. To identify some of the horseshoes we’ve found out lots of information from Steve Pope, the Research Team Leader and Richard Dalton, the Farm Manager. It’s been great to speak with people who are still using similar tools here on the farm at Gressenhall. It highlights how connected the working farm is to the collections and why it is so important to preserve heritage skills.

These are some of the horse shoes we have come across. Something we discovered in our research…Did you know that it is a criminal offence to shoe a horse unless you are qualified under the Farriers Act of 1975?

These are some of the horseshoes we have come across. Something we discovered in our research…Did you know that it is a criminal offence to shoe a horse unless you are qualified under the Farriers Act of 1975?

There are many aspects to the traineeship that I’m really looking forward to. We will undertake lots of training on site with Megan the Curator but also go on placements to experience how different museums operate. This Friday we’re off to Denny Abbey and Farmland Museum in Cambridgeshire. It will be interesting to visit another rural life museum with a similar focus but based at a very different site to Gressenhall.

Working at Gressenhall gives us a very varied schedule. Next week we are having a farm induction and will learn how to plough! (this definitely wasn’t in the job description!?)

Until then, keep your fingers crossed for us!

Thanks for reading,

Henrietta Griffiths

Rural Collections Trainee


Over the traineeship there have been many courses which I have attended and last weekend Tom and I took part in a mammal identification weekend run by the Mammal Society. It was a very full schedule over 2 ½ days with a great amount of information to take in. Over the weekend we got the chance to set some small mammal traps (Longworth traps) and I was lucky enough to catch a common shrew in one of my 6 traps over the weekend which turned out only to weigh 7g!


Longworth traps (with food and bedding inside for mice, voles and shrews to survive the night)


Common Shrew







Field voles and Bank voles were also caught and it was great to be able to see the voles close up therefore allowing all the course attendees to see the key features of the different species caught.


Field Vole

We were shown how to recognise tracks and trails of the mammals in the UK along with how to recognise the differences between calls. As well as being able to recognise live mammals we were also shown how to identify mice, voles and shrews from their skeletons and teeth which all differ slightly and there are distinguishing features in the skeleton which allow us to identify species within the family groups. At the end of the weekend there was a test to ensure we all understood what we had learnt and that we understood how to fill in official recording sheets correctly. Now Tom and I understand how to set traps for small mammals (and how to identify them correctly) we may be able to set up a small survey to see what small mammals are living around the farm and in Centenary Wood.


Hannah and Dani with Trojan

During the Bank Holiday weekend Dani and I joined in the re-enactment and became land girls working on the farm. Using our lovely Suffolk Punches we moved muck and lifted a few potatoes which the public were able to come and pick and take home.


Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service practising rescuing a horse






Getting ready for the Heavy Horse Weekend on the 29th September, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service – Urban Search And Rescue (USAR) have been practicing their skills on how they might rescue an injured horse for their demonstrations taking place during that weekend.


On Friday 30th August our first of four calves was born and he is doing very well. Mum is being very protective but has allowed us a few photos!







Hannah – Heritage Landscape Management Trainee

All Blogged Out!

How time flies when you’re having fun! My twelve month contract as a Heritage Gardening Trainee at Gressenhall has gone in the blink of an eye. It seems barely credible that it’s a year since I started going through the formal induction process, learning how to fill in my hours sheet, file an expenses claim and keep a weekly diary, not to mention the joys of the onsite walkie-talkies and learning everyone’s names. And this is before I even got near a hand-trowel.

The gardening was what it was all about though, not least getting to know the volunteer gardening team. Working mainly in Cherry Tree Cottage garden, I quickly came to learn what a lovely space this garden is to work in, something I could only conclude was down to the effort put in by the volunteers over many years. I’ve always thought this garden space, more than any other, best demonstrates that elusive balance of productivity and beauty. This is really only achieved through hard work and patience. A garden like that takes time to mature. You can’t rush it, and perhaps this is one of the things that most appeals to me about gardening. It slows you down, gives you time to think and plan, helps you see things from a broader perspective. It puts you more in touch with the changing seasons and the seemingly ever more fluctuating climate. When it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of daily chores and admin, time spent in a garden – whether working or just vegetating – keeps you sane. In this respect, it has become ever more evident to me just how crucial the gardens at Gressenhall are in making it a place that people want to come to and keep coming back to. I hope that continues to be the case in the years ahead.

My placement throughout my year at Gressenhall has been at the National Trust’s Peckover House in Wisbech. To those unfamiliar with the place, I would urge everyone to pay a visit. The gardens only extend to two acres, but they pack a lot in. The garden team there, under the inspirational leadership of Head Gardener Allison Napier, is a great team to be a part of, if only for a day a week. There’s a great vibe there – an elusive state of affairs at many workplaces in my experience. I guess it’s all to do with balance, much like that balance achieved in Cherry Tree Cottage garden. Cake at Peckover helps too!

Just as they pack a lot in at Peckover, I’ve managed to pack a lot in to my twelve months. At times it’s been intense, but that’s just how I like it. I think it’s the diversity of experience and the variety of people I’ve met that most sticks in my mind. From traditional hedge laying to Christmas wreath making, from using a scythe to woad dyeing, I’ve been able to experience things I would have been unlikely to do otherwise. I’ve been able to visit gardens at Anglesey Abbey, Beth Chatto’s place in Essex, The Old Vicarage at East Ruston, Houghton Hall and the Bishop’s Garden in Norwich. I’ve met James Wong, Chris Beardshaw, leading environmentalist Simon Fairlie and dug over a new strawberry bed whilst organic guru Bob Flowerdew poured forth his years of knowledge from a pile of old tyres in his garden near Diss. It’s been a blast and I’d like to pass on my thanks to everyone who’s made it possible.

This has also been my first experience of contributing to a blog, so that’s been good too. But now I’m blogged out and a future – I hope – where I can incorporate gardening and outdoor learning into primary education lies ahead. Fingers crossed!

Michael Jordan, Skills for the Future Heritage Gardening Trainee