A Fond Farewell

It’s my turn to say good bye to Gressenhall now. I’ve had a great 18 months and learnt many new skills. At the beginning of February this year myself, Lee and Mike entered a hedgelaying competition being held at Wimpole Home Farm (on the Wimpole Estate). We started around 8 am and had to finish an 8 metre section of hedge by 2 pm. This was a little daunting as Lee and I had not laid that amount of hedge in one day but we were up for the challenge with Mike. There were around 25 people taking part mostly working on their own but some in groups like us.
Hedges can be laid in many different styles depending on where you are in the country and local variation will come into that as well. The two styles being shown at the competition were Midland Bullock and South of England and each of these styles have developed over the years to cope with the climate of an area, the different farming practices and the trees and shrubs which grow in a hedge. There are more than 30 different styles recorded in the UK.

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Midland Bullock Style

Laying a hedge is simply just one of many techniques used to manage and maintain hedge rows. If a hedge were to be left without any management it would eventually become a line of trees. Where farmers keep livestock a good hedge is essential as it provides shelter for the livestock and keeps them in the area you want them to be in. Also hedges are an important habitat for wildlife such as hedgehogs, bank voles, harvest mice, bats, robins, great and blue tits and invertebrates. Cattle and sheep can push through hedges however laying the hedge prevents this by laying the hedge at an angle and putting stakes and binding them together giving the hedge strength against such force. This type of management also tidies up an area along with encouraging the trees and shrubs to regenerate keeping the hedge bushy and healthy. Once the hedge is laid it can be good for up to 50 years before it needs to be laid again.

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Hedge before laying

 

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Lee and Mike tackling a large field maple in the hedge

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The finished hedge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the pictures you can see that hedge started off by looking quite open and tall whereas by the end it looked like it could keep livestock in.

We managed to finish our section of 8 metres in time and won the Hand Tools Class which we were very delighted with. It was a great experience and nice to be able to put into practice what I had been taught over my traineeship.
I have loved the hands on experiences which the traineeship has given me such as working with the animals on the farm. Also being able to go on courses such as mammal trapping and being able to see the small mammals such as mice and voles. It gives more meaning to all the conservation work which has been done on the farm and therefore these animals have a good habitat to thrive in which in turn will keep other mammals and birds such as our Barn Owls happy with the amount of food available to them.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a trainee and look forward to what the future will bring.
Hannah Southon
Heritage Landscape Management Trainee

 

How do I even begin?

This is one of the most common questions nearly everyone has asked when starting any text writing at some point in our lives.

As a collections trainee I ask myself this a lot whether I am writing panel text or even this blog.  How do I inform yet excite?  How do I educate without making people fall asleep?

Recently, my fellow trainees and I got the exciting opportunity to go on a text writing workshop at the Garden Museum in London.  An inspiring location for a day of creativity, the wild flowers hanging from the ceiling was certainly a show piece and well worth a visit.  Here we were able to understand one of the best activities to do before you start any text writing, a wordy warm up.

Wordy warm up’s can help you when you get to those tricky moments where you are unsure how to write about something or even lose your motivation.

The concept is simple, write the subject or topic down and begin to write as many words, phrases, or anything which may jump into your mind that links to your subject.  When you really got the brain ticking you can think of many things to do with your subject.

An example of the wordy warm up at the Garden Museum

An example of the wordy warm up at the Garden Museum

Have a go next time you are writing text, try something different in your text, and hook the reader in with your imagination.  Interestingly after the workshop, I begin to realise that writing doesn’t have to be a struggle; it can actually be creative and allow you to play with your words.

For this blog I decided to create a wordy warm up all about Gressenhall with some input from the collections team.  It’s a brilliant idea and sometimes it makes you realise things about a topic or subject you didn’t necessarily think of before.

What would you add to Gressenhall's wordy warm up?

What would you add to Gressenhall’s wordy warm up?

I hope this blog hasn’t sent you to sleep and has been an inspiration for your text writing.

Poppy, Collections Management Trainee

 

 

Ploughing

As with all my blogs, I like to talk about machinery and equipment. So this one is going to be no exception, in this edition I am going to talk about the plough and ploughing.

Richard Ploughing

Richard Ploughing

Ploughing is a type of cultivation and the purpose of ploughing is to turn over the top layer of soil bring all the fresh nutrients to the surface. As the ground is being turned over it is also burying all the weeds, remains of last years crop, allowing them all to break down under the surface. Once ploughed, you normally leave the ground for a couple of days to dry, and then you can harrow the ground to produce a finer seed bed.

Ground diagram

Ground diagram

The first ever ploughs used to be human powered, but once animals started to be used, this became a lot easier and efficient. The first animals that used to pull ploughs used to be oxen, and then in many areas the use of horses became more popular. It was said that a horseman and his team of horses could plough an acre a day, and in that day he would walk 11 miles whilst ploughing.

Richard Ploughing

Richard Ploughing

Whipple tree set up for a team of two horses

Whipple tree set up for a team of two horses

Ploughs also could be pulled mechanically, This was first done by a team of ploughing engines. These were specific traction engines that had a winch on the underside of the engine. One engine would be one side of the field and the other engine the other side. The plough would then be connected to each winch cable and then would be pulled up and down the field.

Steam Ploughing

Steam Ploughing

Ploughing engine

Ploughing engine

As you can see from the picture below (Picture 8) this lists all the bits on a horse drawn plough. Here is a brief description of all the parts:-

Hake – Is connected to the set of whipple-trees and you also use this to set the angle of draught.

Furrow Wheel – Sits in the furrow against the furrow wall and determines the your depth.

Land Wheel – Sits on top of the land and give you stability.

Skimmer – Clears trash into the bottom of the furrow so it is buried by the cut slice of land.

Coulter – This acts with the share to cut the side wall of the cut slice of land so it folds over into the furrow.

Share – Aids in cutting into the ground to start the process of turning the cut slice.

Mouldboard – Lifts and turns the cut slice of soil.

Plough Diagram

Plough Diagram

Ransomes YL Plough

Ransomes YL Plough

Above you can see a Ransomes YL plough we still use on the farm today. 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.

Once again I hope you have enjoyed another one of my machine orientated blogs, and I will now have to think hard of another bit of equipment I write about next time.

Ben Preston – Heritage Farming Apprentice

Gressenhall is to have bees again!

Gressenhall is to have bees again! An update from Daniel Johnson, Landscape Heritage Management trainee.
We have begun cleaning up the old WBC hive that was set up in the wildflower meadow at the top of the farm. ‘WBC’ stands for William Broughton Carr; the man responsible for the design of this traditional hive first constructed in 1890. A modern hive complete with a colony of bees belonging to Venetia Rist, a local beekeeper living in Gressenhall village will soon be inserted into the WBC structure following its renovation.
We are at the first stage in the clean up process- deep freezing the outer frames or ‘lifts’, along with the drawers or ‘supers’ as they are known, and the old foundation frames onto which the worker bees graft their wax cells and store their honey.
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Temperatures in the freezer will drop to -32°c. Once the extreme cold has killed off any woodworm and other bugs or grubs the hive will be treated to a pressure wash and gentle sanding before being finished in a resplendent white paint (bee-friendly, of course!).
Honey Bees have had a difficult time of late with many colonies collapsing or in serious decline. It may be some time before we are fortunate enough to be producing much honey here at Gressenhall, but the presence of the bees and a traditional, functioning hive in a historical setting will be a welcome site this summer.

The EVENTful first weeks of a recovering Brummie in Norfolk.

Hi, my name is Charlotte and I’m one of eight Teaching Museum Trainees spread across Norfolk Museum Service. Originally from Birmingham I have been working at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse since mid-January and feel exceptionally lucky to be working in the events team – I can confidently say that I have the best job in the world!

 Charlotte

To first give you some background, the concept of the Teaching Museum Scheme is to try and give people of all ages and backgrounds a ‘stepping stone’ into employment within the museum industry. Anyone who’s ever tried to find a way into a museum career will know that the most common entry route is via a Museum Studies Masters course at university. Unfortunately though not everyone can undertake this route, so Norfolk Museum Service has piloted the first Teaching Museum Scheme which, rather than a formal qualification, provides training and on-the-job experience for the trainees taking part.

My dream career has always been focussed on work within the heritage sector, and this traineeship was such a wonderful opportunity which has proven to be engaging and very enjoyable, thus cementing my commitment to realising a museum career. In addition to this Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse is a wonderful place to work and there is always so much going on and plenty of opportunity to learn and take responsibility for various projects.

Now that the introduction is done I’d like to tell you a little more about my work at Gressenhall. I’ve been made extremely welcome by the other members of staff and volunteers and am currently working on three different projects, as well as getting stuck in with various activities and roles. The project which I am concentrating on at the moment is a campaign we are running called ‘Rediscover the Workhouse’.

 rediscover 

In case you haven’t yet heard, we are hoping to redevelop our Workhouse displays to provide our visitors with some fresh and accurate stories using the inmate records from our Workhouse. The campaign which I am leading on is one which aims to attract local families to our site during April, in the hope that they will give us feedback on what they would like to see in the new displays. I’m very excited about this, and the advertising is almost ready to go, so watch this space for an update later on in the year, to see what kind of feedback we get!

I am also working on a project which will enable us to take birthday parties at the museum, providing options such as room hire, lunch and craft/decorating activities (as well as access to the farm, museum and adventure playground of course!) I’ve been doing quite a bit of research, and once the ‘Rediscover the Workhouse’ campaign is underway, I’ll be putting together booking sheets so that we can trial a few parties and gain some feedback.

Lastly I am also proud to say that I have been made an SMC or Social Media Champion. Although this sounds like quite a grand and distant title, my role is to try and connect with our visitors, and provide another way to access what we have to offer. It’s really important to us that we’re not seen as some ‘distant entity’ and can instead portray the museum as it really is.

There was a time when museum employees thought that visitors and the general public weren’t interested in what goes on behind the scenes. Now however it is understood that this element of museum life is very exciting, because it’s not something visitors see on planned visits, and can provide a deeper understanding than that which is gained whilst walking around the site.

In relation to this my entire day on Monday was spent gathering updates from the Gressenhall team, taking photographs of the site and planning further work on the ‘Make It Monday’ project I’m leading on. All of this was to get some great content which our followers will be interested to read on our social media pages.

I was lucky enough to catch Scott (our Skills for the Future Heritage Gardening Trainee) whilst he was working on the groundworks for the farmhouse garden, Poppy (our Skills for the Future Rural Collections Management Trainee) whilst she was working on painting the wall for the new ‘Norfolk’s Last Horseman’ exhibition and Lauren (Assistant Curator) and Dave (Museum Technician) who were putting up the last display panel for the ‘Letters From the Workhouse’ temporary exhibition which will be ready for our reopening on 9 March.

 Scott

Poppy

Dave

In writing this I realise that I mentioned ‘Make It Monday’ a little earlier but never explained what the project was. ‘Make It Monday’ posts will be put up on the website and our social media pages on every Monday of school holidays. The concept is based on the fact that many families compliment us on the Art Attack and craft activities we run when we’re open. We’re quite a creative bunch here at Gressenhall, and unfortunately there are some ideas which never make it into our activity sessions, either because they’re a bit trickier or they take a little too long. My idea was to take these craft activities and put them into an easy-to-follow instruction sheet, so that our visitors and social media followers can print them off and have a go at home. In this way we hope to go the extra mile to help families by giving them an extra option with an additional activity which runs throughout the holidays (even though we’d love you to come and see us every day!)

 Kid

The pilot ‘Make It Monday’ activity was put on our website, Facebook page and Twitter on 17 February for half term. It shows you how to make a Kaleidoscope at home, and is in PDF format so can be easily downloaded and printed off (Click Here). I had great fun making the Kaleidoscope and I hope that we get lots of interest as there are plenty more activities to come! And if you’d like to see Make-It-Monday, or are interested in behind the scenes updates and gossip then please check out our Twitter or Facebook!

www.facebook.com/gressenhallfw

@gressenhallfw

Apologies if this post has gone on a bit, I guess I’ve been a little busier than I first thought! Don’t forget to come and say hello on event days as I’ll be around somewhere!

Charlotte

Centenary Wood Rejuvenation

As I’m coming to the end of my traineeship this will be my final blog entry! Over the past 17 months I have had such a fantastic time here at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse and I can’t put a figure on the amount of brilliant moments and opportunities that I have been part of. Everything that I have done and all the wonderful people that I have met will always stay with me.

Out of all of the experiences and projects I have been part of the one that I am most proud of is the Centenary Wood Rejuvenation Project. The woodland, located behind the main building at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, was planted in 1989 to celebrate the Centenary of the County Council. But since then not much has been done to it in terms of management, and so it was far too linear and close together to be of any use to people or even wildlife. As part of mine and the other landscape management trainees’ roles here at Gressenhall we were tasked with sorting the woodland out. Over the summer we spent time devising a management plan capable of addressing the woodland’s issues and bringing its management up to scratch. The whole plan is quite long but the main management aims drawn up are as follows:

• To reduce the amount of trees in the woodland and remove the majority of the poor form specimens to allow the remaining trees to establish themselves fully.

• To create greater structural and age diversity within both the Lower and Top Wood which will benefit a greater range of wildlife.

• To increase ground flora and understory to optimise habitats in the woodland for wildlife.

• Create new hazel coppice areas and reintroduce rotation plan.

• The management work needs to be capable of being sustained over time and be cost-effective.

With these aims in mind we are now undertaking practical habitat management within the woodland. Eventually the whole of Centenary Wood will be a much healthier habitat with a greater diversity in terms of structure, age and species present. It will also be a much more accessible and effective resource that the museum can make use of.

 

Centenary Wood

Centenary Wood

A fantastic benefit of undertaking this woodland project is the creation of a new volunteer group, the Gressenhall Conservation Volunteers. They are helping us with the practical management of Centenary Wood and other conservation tasks that need doing. They have already been a tremendous help to us and every week they keep coming back smiling; we must be doing something right! They are a fantastic group and we wouldn’t be able to achieve the results that we have without them! 

Lee and volunteer Adriaan inspecting the coppice

Lee and volunteer Adriaan inspecting the coppice

We are finding as many uses as possible for the trees that we are felling, as we aim to waste as little as possible. A big proportion of the larger pieces of wood are being processed into firewood to fuel the farmhouse stove and washing copper. Lots of the brash from the trees has been used to dead hedge the boundary of the wood and the newly created education glade. Some of the wood is being left on the ground as dead wood or heaped into piles, both of which are fantastic habitat for all sorts of creatures. We have even managed to harvest some ash and oak to be made into wooded hurdles for use on the farm. The photo below shows the bodgers camp that we built to do some greenwood working in down on the farm. You can see some finished hurdles as well as some of our volunteers in the process of making more.

Gressenhall Bodgers Camp

Gressenhall Bodgers Camp

 

 

Bowler ready for work

Bowler ready for work

To help us in the extraction of our felled trees we decided to enlist the help of the farm’s Suffolk Punch Horses. In the photo you can see Bowler all geared up and ready to pull the log into position. Horse logging is a fantastic method for timber removal as they are far more manoeuvrable than a tractor and have much less of an impact on the woodland in terms of compaction or ground disturbance. It has been a real pleasure working along side the horses in the woodland as it is something the Farm staff have been wanted to try for many years.Progress has been very good with the aid of our volunteer group and with almost all of the work done in the Lower Woodland everything is on track and going according to plan. Although I sadly will not be able to see the completion of the woodland rejuvenation plan I can leave it safely in the hands of Lee, Daniel and the Gressenhall Conservation Volunteer Group.

 

 

 

I look forward to my final few months and what ever the future may hold!

 

 

 

Tom Watson

 

 

 

Heritage Landscape Management Trainee