Ellie the Piglet

As some of you may be aware via the social media networks, we recently had to deal with an orphan piglet.

Due to unfortunate circumstances, Ellie was left orphaned after her other siblings died overnight. I arrived on the morning of Monday 6th October to discover the piglets had passed away over night and that there was one left buried in straw, shaking. Mum was uninterested so I scooped her up and so began a massive learning curve for me.

I have not had children, but I have heard that the sleepless nights are a killer. I can relate to this fact now!

I spent my Monday researching the correct way to raise an orphan piglet which consisted of very specific instructions, such as a ratio of one third milk to two thirds lukewarm water. There were initially some problems which desperately needed solving. The farm did not have any substitute pig milk and therefore the nearest acceptable substitute was ordinary condensed  milk  served warm from a bottle. We did not know when she had last ate and whether she would even take condensed milk.


Thankfully she took to the bottle greedily and had a good strong suckle. As she was only a day old she was only capable of drinking about a teaspoon every two hours. She required a heat lamp and permanent observation (we were very unsure as to whether she would make it through to the end of the working day, let alone over night!)


She beat the odds and came home with me on Monday evening, and this was where I discovered how much getting up every two hours can kill a person. Just as I got to sleep, my alarm went off again! I would creep anxiously out of my bedroom and into the living room where I would peer with dread into the box, fully braced for the fact she may well have died. However, every time I began my dreaded peek, she would squeal in delight and I would breathe a sigh of relief. The pig had made it through the night!

As her first week progressed I continued my steep learning curve. For example, did you know that in order to wean a piglet off a bottle and onto drinking from a bowl, you should pick the pig up and plonk their head into the bowl of milk? No? Neither did I! It was the weirdest experience. It felt a little like I was drowning her and boy oh boy, did she scream! Thankfully, pigs are intelligent animals so it only took her two ‘drownings’ to realise that she had milk on tap by her bed.


It was amazing to see how fast she grew. She outgrew her first little plastic box within three days and has since progressed through two other boxes and onto the biggest box on the farm. After two days we felt confident enough to name her, and Ellie came about due to her piglet skin appearing like leather and her nose all wrinkled, just like a baby elephants would be.


She is now (at the time of writing this) two weeks and one day old, and she must have almost doubled in size. You will be happy to hear that she is doing well, drinking her milk quite happily and we are starting to consider her future with a bit more optimism.

The next stage will be to move her into the smaller pigsty in order for her to smell and communicate with other pigs (she has been living in isolation so far). We will then introduce her to other piglets (a litter which was born one week after her) once they are weaned and hopefully, a few months down the line she will be contentedly socialising with some new friends!

In the long term, as she is unrelated to our new boar, we can use her as a breeding sow on the farm and that way, once I have left, I can still come and visit little Ellie (who won’t be quite so little by then!)


Dani Chatten

Heritage Farming Apprentice


Conference Capers

This year’s Museum Association Conference took place in the spectacular Cardiff Millennium Centre and was a whirlwind of talks, workshops, performance, lively discussion and hands on activity that  would be impossible to summarise here. Instead I’m going to share with you a few key moments that really resonated with me.

The theme was Museums Change Lives, a topic close to my heart as it’s a statement I really believe in and the reason I’m pursuing a career in this sector so doggedly: I want to work within a world that makes a positive difference.

When you hear the word ‘conference’, it probably conjures up images of sombre, suited delegates in serious discussion, but the MA offered something quite different. The passion of everyone for their sector shone throughout the event and the unique local character was embodied by a rousing poem written and performed at conference especially for us by the young person’s laureate for Wales, Martin Daws.

Mat Fraser- actor, activist and interesting human- gave a fantastic bespoke performance on the representations of disability in museums, complete with dancing and show tunes.

Image courtesy of Museums Association

Image courtesy of Museums Association

Discover more about his boundary-destroying, status quo-challenging work here: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/rcmg/projects/cabinet-of-curiosities


Much more sedate, but equally inspiring, was a fascinating discussion of the museum as an imaginary space, which asked us all to reflect on what being a museum means to us. We were invited to virtually explore the wonderful Marco Polo Museum, which manages to be a museum without actually existing.


The age-old idea of Cabinets of Curiosity was revisited in a lively debate where delegates were asked to consider which objects we would include in a modern curiosity cabinet to represent museums today. Popular suggestions included a stuffed curator and an empty case to represent everything that museums can’t or don’t display.

The true power of a museum to make a difference was exemplified in a tearful plea from Antonio Vieira, director of the Museu da Mare, to save the museum that has bought together the warring populations of the slums through exhibiting their shared history. Despite their great work, they are threatened with closure as their building is shortly to be taken from them.


Image courtesy of Museums Association



By turns challenging, informative and emotional, this year’s Museum Association Conference was an experience that will stay with me. Thank you, Cardiff!


Charlotte Edwards

Heritage Data Management Trainee

Autumn Activities

It hardly feels like autumn, what with the great weather we’ve had for most of September and October. It hardly feels as though I’ve been a Skills For the Future trainee for over a year now; it has passed so quickly. Now we are well into our seasonal work and are back hedge laying and picking apples for the upcoming ‘Apple Day’ event, and the leaves are beginning to turn their golden yellows, reds and browns I am reminded of all that I’ve done over the last twelve months and the experiences I have had. It’s been a heck of a ride!


I’ve picked up a range of new skills in practical conservation such as fen and meadow cutting, reed bed restoration work, coppice work and fencing; not to mention the opportunities to get experience with different tools and machinery, and also some great individual projects like beekeeping and species’ monitoring work around the farm. The work I was able to do what the ‘nature watch’ cameras during the nesting season will be especially remembered by me; being able to watch our resident Barn Owl pair successfully raise a brood was a real treat- this year hasn’t really felt like ‘work’ at all!!


Right now the focus is on preparation for ‘Apple Day’. I have been getting the materials ready for a demonstration of traditional hedge laying and will be preparing a hedge in the Orchard for the event this weekend. In addition, we have been out picking apples from the many old and indigenous varieties we have at the site. These have been carefully boxed and displayed in the Roots Building down on the farm, ahead of the event on Sunday where they’ll be shown to our local experts in attendance; who’ll try to name any unknown varieties before the apples are taken for use in ‘scrumping’. This is where the apples are crushed in presses to make juice for sale during the day. Everyone will get the chance to taste the produce from our trees including some very old varieties that have originated in the county.


Apple Day has fond memories for me. Last year was my first, and also the first time I’d ever attempted hedge laying. This year I will have had a whole season behind me in which I’ve (hopefully!) improved somewhat in the art. I hope to be able to demonstrate each stage in the process, from cutting and clearing a section ready for laying, through making the correct cut in the chosen stem to be laid (known as a ‘pleacher’), and also the structural work such as preparing posts and ‘heatherings’; long, decorative stems of hazel that are woven between each post and act to bind the structure together.


It’s shaping up to be another great day. I have a busy week ahead of me to get everything ready whilst I’m still on work placements and keeping up with my NPTC diploma coursework. I hope the glorious autumn weather returns in time for Sunday and we have plenty of visitors to make the day even better than last year!

Daniel Johnson
Landscape Conservation Trainee
Skills For the Future

Hello from the education department at Gressenhall!

We’re now well into the new school year and we have begun delivering a major new school event about the Neolithic period. The team has spent a lot of the summer holidays developing sessions for the event: a ‘special things’ session, a farming session, a hunting session and a shelter session. We will have a turn at delivering each of the sessions- so far I have delivered Special Things (which includes an object-finding and handling session in our First Farmers Gallery, plus making a clay pot) and Shelter (where children find out about Neolithic homes, and have a go at making their own shelter). It has been a really useful experience to see how a session is developed and then to run and evaluate it. It’s also interesting to be in the same position as the rest of the team- usually everyone else has delivered a session lots of times whilst I’m new to everything. This time it was new to all of us!

Another new school event will be starting shortly- the new primary curriculum requires children to learn about life within living memory, and in response to this we will be offering a 1950s event for Key Stage 1 children. I have been researching life in the 1950s, getting toys and television footage (including a truly terrifying Gerry Anderson show called Torchy the Battery Boy- look it up if you’ve never seen it!), and most importantly sourcing items for the 1950s-themed doll’s house which we’ll be using to illustrate what a home would have looked like during this period. I never had a doll’s house as a child, so a fascinating (and slightly bizarre) new miniature world has been opened up to me!

Some of the growing collection of doll’s house furniture, complete with cat and mouse

Some of the growing collection of doll’s house furniture, complete with cat and mouse

In addition to preparing for our new events, I have once again been helping to run our Early Years group, Muddy Museum Café. Our most recent session was about tractors, so we set up a tractor training run (with the children role-playing as tractors) in our farmhouse garden. They then painted and decorated cardboard tractors, which had been lovingly made by me and our Live Interpretation Officer, Rachel. (Who knew it could take almost a whole day to glue together cereal boxes and loo rolls!?)


The fleet of tractors ready to be decorated

The farmhouse garden converted into a tractor training run

The farmhouse garden converted into a tractor training run






I recently shadowed our Visitor Services Trainee, Lydia, to get an idea of the multitude of different tasks carried out by our Front of House team. I realised just how hard the team works to keep the museum looking lovely and clean, and making sure that all of our visitors are having a good time.

I’ve also had the opportunity to attend training sessions which will be very valuable for my professional development. As Tabitha, another Learning Trainee, mentioned in her blog, we and the other SftF trainees attended an Understanding Museums course; one of the convenors being Gressenhall’s first curator. In two short days Bridget and her colleague Nicola were able to give us a great insight into the heritage sector, including the history of museums, how to use objects and stories in museums, governance, ethics and much more. Coming from a different sector I found this course really helpful and it was something I probably wouldn’t have been able to do without my traineeship.

For the remainder of my time here I’ll be doing lots more training, including Forest Schools Level 1, Paediatric First Aid, becoming an Arts Award adviser and several sessions by SHARE Museums East, who put on free training for museum staff and volunteers in the East of England. However the main bulk of my training over the next three months will be a foundation course run by the Group for Education in Museums, giving me specialised training in museum learning. I believe there are still a couple of places left on the course if anyone is interested.

One of the great things about doing a traineeship at Gressenhall is the opportunity to work with different departments, to get as broad an experience as possible. Over the summer holidays I was able to work with the Events team to deliver informal learning sessions such as Art Attack!, a themed art session which took place every day of the holidays. I also helped with one of our biggest public events, Village at War, which took place at the end of August and saw thousands of visitors coming to commemorate both the First and Second World Wars. One of the highlights of the two-day event was a flypast by a Lancaster. I was in role at the event as a 1940s shopkeeper, handing out rations of sweets to the under-18s and selling Spitfire badges to raise money for the Battle of Britain Memorial Fund. Many thanks to everyone who bought a badge! I’ll be joining the Events team again soon for our Hallowe’en event on the 30th and 31st October. More details about the event are on the main page of Gressenhall’s website– do come along!

Selling Spitfire badges at Village at War

Selling Spitfire badges at Village at War