Almost back to work

Hello again. I know I have been away for a long time.

The plan was to continue the blog with a “diary” around the events of the Heavy Horse Project. Well it’s not started yet or anyway the first spadeful of earth hasn’t been turned. We are at the planning and permissions stage. The game plan is still to have it completed by lambing next year. The time frame for the project will depend on the planning permission time frame.

Still all of us down the Horse end continue to be optimistic.

We had our first carriage drive of the season last week and the troops are getting back into working mode. Lots of long-reining and sledging and some practise carriage rides. The horses seem happy to be back at work after the boredom and restrictions of winter.

Another plus for the HHD is that Emma will be able to recruit a full time Groom.HR is in process of producing the Role Profile so that the post can be advertised.

The Stable Block shop now has Shire Horse book marks as well as postcards and will be getting Jigsaws to sell soon.

Yippee

jacob cantering

 

Wimpole’s award winning Gothic Tower

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Wimpole’s Gothic Tower, cared for by the National Trust, is one of only two UK winners in the Conservation category of the Awards which were revealed today by the European Commission and Europa Nostra.

A designed ruin

The Gothic Tower, designed to look like a picturesque medieval ruin, is based on a sketch by the architect Sanderson Miller in 1749 for his patron, Lord Hardwicke, the owner of Wimpole.
The design was later realised in an amended form under the supervision of the great landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown from 1768-72.

The conservation project

Located in the magnificent parkland of Wimpole Estate, the Gothic Tower presented a complex conservation challenge for the National Trust. The work called for repair of the structure, stabilization of the stonework and reinstatement of missing components of the building, while preserving the weathered beauty and original ‘ruined’ appearance.
Folly 3Wendy Monkhouse, National Trust Curator in the East of England, said: “We’re delighted to have been recognized by the European Commission and Europa Nostra for the work we’ve done on the Gothic Tower – it’s the most prestigious heritage award in Europe, and it means a lot to the National Trust and to the staff and volunteers at Wimpole.
“Many people know and love the magnificent mansion and the 18th century farm, but the Tower was an almost forgotten ruin – a kind of sleeping beauty, literally surrounded by briar roses and nettles. Now, with its reinstated crenellations triumphant on the main Tower, it sits once more at the focal point of the landscape designed by Capability Brown, whose tercentenary we are celebrating this year.”

What the judges said

For the 2016 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, independent expert juries assessed a total of 187 applications, submitted by organisations and individuals from 36 countries across Europe, and selected the winners.
In Wimpole’s Gothic Tower, the Awards jury commented: “Intellectually, this project raises questions about the preservation of a designed ruin and inspires thought about the nature of conservation. It is informed by detailed research and archaeological recordings and is a model of cooperative endeavour. This is an extraordinary example of a restoration of an iconic ruin which has served as an example for the construction of similar structures in Europe.”

Your chance to vote for the Public Choice Award

Along with the other 27 award winners, Wimpole’s Gothic Tower will be further considered for one of seven Grand Prix awards along with one chosen in public vote.  Members of the public can now vote online until 8 May for the Public Choice Award to support their favourite project.

Winter Warmer

Sorry been absent for a while – holidays and so on.
Anyway we have started winter operating at the farm. We are closed to customers Monday to Friday and open 1100 to 1600hrs Saturday & Sunday.
For the Heavy Horse Dept. it’s a time for losing weight and getting fit.

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At this time of year we bring the horses in overnight and then let them out during the day until around 1500 hrs. So for us that means we get to muck out the stables of 7 Shires, 2 Donkeys and 2 Shetlands. We normally use the small tractor and trailer for disposal of the presents that are left for us on to the “heap”.
The other added bonus we get this time of year is that all the horses appear to develop a sort of mud magnetism and invariably come in coated from hoof to nose. So grooming takes a little longer. All the troops like to be nice and clean and shiny before they go out the next morning to continue their plan of bringing as much of the field as they can into the stables, so that we can put it back into the field. It’s a kind of symbiosis: they get clean I lose weight.
You gotta love em

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Here’s mud in your eye

Steam by Shane O’Reilly

Our farm tracks get a bit of a rolling from steam engine, volunteer Shane explains all . . .

Wympole & Wratsworth

Here she comes Here she comes

It’s the smell of new Plasticine that takes me back to my early schooldays and the visual stimulus of a Rupert Bear annual that dragoons back memories of Christmas’ past. So what is it about steam that evokes such powerful emotions? No, I don’t mean the pure steam that comes from a boiling kettle but the steam associated with traction engines. This ‘steam’ is a beguiling mixture of burning coal, hot water and lubricating oil that can transform a man of a certain age into the small boy he once was by conjuring up pictures of railway stations of old. But I get ahead of myself. What were the forestry department doing with a steam engine?

Keeping the tracks and by-ways of the estate in usable order for the farm machinery, and the walking public, is one of the responsibilities that falls to us at this time…

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A clean horse is a happy horse

So there I was ( i’m  Jacob) minding my own business in the field when Mummy called me over and took me in to the stalls.Little did I know that it was bath night.First off my hooves were picked out and cleaned,then I was brushed all over to remove mud and loose hair;then my feathers (the hairy bits at the bottom of legs) were washed and made shiny white and lastly my main and tail were brushed.

And then I was put back out in the field.

Well whats a chap going to do when he’s all clean and sparkly.

“Mud mud glorious mud nothing quite like it for curing the blood”
Noel Coward

If you look closely you can see Captain hiding by the side of the tree.Not sure if he is embarrassed or just dodging his bath.

Keeping going with the personal care theme.

Murphy and Jacob making sure they are perfectly groomed

Murphy and Jacob making sure they are perfectly groomed

Conjuring up New Tricks

Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but you can teach them to a mature horse.
Queenie who is 12 yrs old has never been ridden. Now that Lady her latest addition to the Heavy Horse Dept. is enjoying her teenage years mummy is exploring new adventures.
For the last couple of weeks Emma has been getting Queenie used to the idea of being ridden. To start with Queenie was introduced to the weight and feel of a saddle and harness in the stalls – basically she just wore them for a while.

Queenie showing off her saddle

Queenie showing off her saddle

Next came lunging with a single and a double line while carrying a saddle (with stirrups hanging but secured so as not to rattle about).

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Queenie enjoying lunging

Queenie enjoying lunging

The next step in the process was to add weight to her back, basically Emma lying across the saddle and then Emma sitting in the saddle and riding her.
It’s all gone extremely well Queenie is now being ridden up to a trot and seems to be taking to it like a duck to water.

Who said being ridden was difficult!

Who said being ridden was difficult!

Which just goes to show that there’s a lot more to a Shire horse than just good looks and a lovely temperament

Sledging : its not cricket

Murphy our biggest Shire continues to get fitter after his long lay off due to a hoof problem.Nobody told Murphy  that part of his ongoing recovery is regaining his fitness and muscle tone.This week saw Murphy having his first go at being longreined for about a year.He came through it like a star.

Emma longreining Murphy

Emma longreining Murphy

Also enjoying new training was Jasper.This year the plan is to introduce some agricultural demos using the troops.To start with they will be asked to pull a roller and a harrow.The harrow is by nature a noisy bit of kit so we need to get the horses used to it.For training Jasper was connected to the sledge and walked around the field followed by Holly making noises with the chains.To start with it is a gentle noise to give him time to adjust to it ie not frighten him, then the noise level is gradually raised.The target being a happy Jasper who ignores the sound of the chain/harrow.

Jasper successfully ignoring the chains

Jasper successfully ignoring the chains

Jasper without the sledge

Jasper without the sledge

Animal pens and bunny hotels

Project Manager, Paul Coleman, updates us on things underground.

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The Folly is under siege, this time from below.  We continue with the scientific approach of investigations and are radaring the ground for bunnies !!

They may be cute until they dig too close to the walls with their burrows, forming an extensive network of tunnels which can and are causing problems with the stability of the walls.

The area around the Folly is peppered with rabbit activity – what we’ve been doing is investigating where they are and how big their warrens are. But how do you check whether their tunnels are causing a problem or not and the extent of them.  Well, just like on TimeTeam we are using specialists to see under the ground – Peter Masters of Cranfield University is our expert, using his specialist equipment which is dragged behind him to slowly show a picture of the ground around the Folly walls.

WP_20150227_11_44_37_ProHe is using a technique called Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR),  which send electro magnetic pulses to the ground which are bounced back to the receiver and allows us to map out structure and features buried below us.

Some of the holes are ok and not causing a problem but we’ve found 2 areas which will need to be stabilised.

Not only have we found bunny hotels, it has also shown areas of previous buildings (now long gone) which were located around the Folly – we believe these to have been the old animal pens when the Game Keeper was in residence.

If a lamb has a cough is it a little hoarse?

Been away for a bit but have maintained my fitness levels by helping out during lambing again.

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Two catching a ride from Mum

So what news is there?  Well the farm staff / volunteer welfare facility a.k.a the new tea room is due to become a reality amongst those present on the 11th May.  It will have wondrous white goods, tables, chairs and a carpet.  As we will need to remove our boots to enter this palace of cake and sundry comestibles, there is a plot afoot to make us all resplendent in Turkish slippers at the bottom of the stairs.

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Will my slippers fit?

Over the next couple or so weeks I will be able to run a commentary on the progress of the Heavy Horse Project.

Watch this space . . .

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Queenie (standing) keeps an eye on Lady two years old this June (catching some rays)

Fact or fiction?

Paul Coleman, Project Manager, talks us through an interesting find at the folly.

We’ve found lots of things at the Folly during the works, especially whilst carry out out soil movement which unearth lots of broken pot, plate and ceramics – all telling a story of the people who have used the building and the estate over the years.

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But something fascinating turned up out of a huge pile of soil, a bullet and this is one of the things which has struck me about working at Wimpole that the estate has been used by many people for many years and you just don’t know what’s around us.  Using your imagination you start to try to connect with the people who used these special places in the past and start to make up your own stories…

The Fact . . .

A number of bullets, or their cartridge cases were found and you can date these,  so by carefully rubbing on the end you will see the ‘Head Stamp’ and this tells a lot.

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CP 43 VII

It tells us it was manufactured by Crompton Parkinson Ltd, Guiseley, Yorkshire.  Originally a electric supply company and component manufacturer,  who made a wide range of electrical goods including electric motors, electric generators, light bulbs, power cables and batteries.  This factory was set up as part of the 1939-1945 war emergency expansion plan to make ammunition for British Military.

The cartridge was made in 1943, right in the middle of World War 2.

Crompton Parkinson produced .303 caliber cartridges during the period 1940-1944. This cartridge had 174 metal grains in the pointed Mark VII bullet.

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The 303 was the main light round for the British Army used in the Lee Enfield Rifle (British Army Standard issue rifle adopted between 1895 and 1956), Vickers medium machine gun ,Browning(Vickers and BSA manufactured) .303 machine gun – the machine guns were either static ground mounted or used on aircraft such as supermarine spitfire, hawker hurricanes, Gloster Gladiator, Fairey Swordfish and Wellington Bomber.

Fiction  . . .

So why have we found a number of these spent cartridges,  we know part of the South Park was the site of an American military hospital built during the Second World War. After the war it was used for a short time as a teacher training college before it was demolished in the 1950s.  We are also on the flight path of Duxford – on a clear day you can see the reflections of the big hanger from up on the hill.

My story is one of the Folly at War, a time when the sky was charged with squadrons from many different countries.  Duxford airfield lay over the horizon and in 1943 it was assigned to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) however a small but important squadron of British planes were retained and including a fearsome team of Spitfire.  The Folly was a beacon on the hill used as a triangulation point, a way marker for their approach and point for their final approach to land.

A clear sky with the moon setting a sliver glow across the park, the expanse of the Hall pinging into view, the heightened anticipation and adrenaline of arriving home after a long and gruelling sortie, the howl of the engines stirring a flock of geese near the lake, and a low flight across the park.  The Folly shines in the distance, edging its way above the tree line and yes, the adrenaline kicks in again – the speed of the plane can be sensed as the Folly rapidly gets bigger through the glass cockpit window.

In the field beyond the Hall,  the camp is bustling with activity and many of the men are sitting on the steps of their make shift huts smoking and listening to the low drone approaching, they know from the sound of the distinct whine and whistle that it is at least 3 planes, they stand to try to pick out from the moon light above the Hall the distinctive shape and wing formation.

The trio skim the top of the folly tower they bank hard left releasing a sharp burst of fire into the sky. The orange trail line of the bullets can be seen for miles,  the spent cases rattle off the wing and tumble to the ground.

Its not a display of power, but the exhilaration of coming home and a sense of pride running through their finger as they press the button on the joy stick, as a short burst of the cannon fire releases a line into the sky.

Fact, the browning had a Muzzle velocity which was rated at 2450 feet per second (that’s right quick) and an effective range to 2,190 yards, with maximum range to 4500 yards.  So using the Folly as a point of approach and the spitfire maximum speed of 340mph.  They would be passed the Wimpole Estate in a flash, releasing a cannon fire quickly would mean the spent cases dotted for some distance around the area and quite possibly those which have been found at the Folly.