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).


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.


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 . . .


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.


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.



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.


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.

It’s not just glass – it’s a work of art…

Window heads. hood and label- public facades

Paul Coleman, Project Manager, talks us through another dimension added to the Folly – glass and windows.  Why?

Glass possesses the quality of bringing life to a building, adding atmosphere and ambience – glass is seen both internally and externally and at the Folly gives some truly amazing reflective qualities.  Outside it is more dramatic where we see changes in the pattern of the glass, the refracted images caused by the irregular glass finish which handmade glass possesses, a soft wave and shimmer or ripple and a different texture to the building being offered.  The poetic stuff out of the way, lets talk fact….

The Folly was originally glazed but over the years windows were broken or vandalised and eventually in the 1980’s all openings were boarded up (unfortunately people in the past loved to throw stones at the old girl !!).

Boarded up windows at the Folly at Wimpole Estate Cambridgeshire

Boarded up windows

The windows were predominantly metal framed inserted into the gothic stone arches and glazed with leaded light windows – we see evidence of this on the early photos (which have been again our source of information to replicate the window style and design),

2 Early 20C Window pattern

We also had one surviving metal frame which we found removed from the stonework and buried under the piles of pigeon guano and another mangled piece broken and twisted.

3 Uncovered  Window Frame

An uncovered window frame

A mangled window frame from the Folly at Wimpole Estate Cambridgeshire

A mangled mess

All of this again has led to us being able to piece together information to enable us to replicate the metal windows which are back in the building – traditional ironworker crafts and the team at Cliveden have helped replicate the windows.

But the glass,  we had a lucky find (well lots of little finds) – we had to excavate around the perimeter of the tower to reduce the ground level (as too high) a resulting 220 tonne pile of soil was heaped up.  And from this pile we started to see fragments of glass, leadwork for the windows and other interesting pots and pieces.  We excavated carefully to retrieve more, and this gave the final clues for the building – giving the glass type, thickness, pattern, size, colour and critically the lead work size to hold the glass in place.

5 Uncovered glass, lead and metal work

Uncovered glass, lead and metalwork

5a Windows being manufactured

Windows being manufactured

Window catch from inside - public facades

Simple handle detail

We found lots of different glass dating over a number of years which shows it had been repaired and replaced in many areas (caused by accidental breakage or unfortunately vandalism). Our glass expert looked at the varying samples and concluded :

The glass could be split up into three main groups:

  • The thin pieces with iridescence are  crown glass ( C18-19th), very early glass in deed,
  • Most of the rest of the thinner glass is sheet glass (C19th-early 20th), this was probably cylinder glass or bed glass,
  • The thicker pieces of glass are float glass post 1959 – this is very flat as you would see in a modern house,

Thicknesses range from 1.2mm crown, to 3.5mm float glass (modern glass) and colour varies from iridescent, clear polished, pink manganese tint, greenish iridescence, green tint and blue tint.

So, we knew we have leaded light windows,  Small square bits of glass held together with sections of leadwork which form a larger panel which fits into the metal frame of the window. Some of the windows are opening (hinged) and some are fixed – we see this on the old photo’s.

The lead work called Lead Cames – is an ‘H’ profile, where the glass slots into the legs and holds it into place,

6 Glass and lead cames

7 Glass and lead cames

Glass and lead cames

Looking for new glass…

It’s a challenge trying to match glass, as there are so many things to think about, mainly from my perspective it about the thickness, colour and texture.  Texture is important as when the glass is made in a traditional way, it has irregularities in it (the ripples, air bubbles, ridges) these all give life to the glass and when you look at an old building or through an old window, you get that distortion in the view which looks wonderful. Plus the light falling on or through it bends and reflects giving some weird and great patterns.

Window - public facades

Reflections of new glass

So we choose a modern glass produced to give traditional appearance and very thin (2-3mm thick), but one which had that movement in the glass and as seen, does give a truly wonderful appearance to the building.

To describe the type of glass we found,

Crown Glass –made by blowing and spinning a huge blob of glass which gradually enlarges to make a huge flat spinning disc. Several panes of crown glass could be cut from one disc,  the closer to the middle is where the thicker bits are and towards the edges it gets thinner.  The outer edges were prized, and would have been very expensive. The patterns in the glass are obviously circular,

Cylinder Glass – made by blowing a very large bottle shaped cylinder, the ends are cut off and then the tube is cut along its length.  Its then heated and unrolled to give a flat piece of glass.  It has a good pattern of ridges.

Bed or slab glass – made by flowing molten glass into a big flat caste, once hardened it would have been polished and ground flat,

Float glass – modern glass which is plain and has no texture to it,  the molten glass is floated over liquid tin to give a very uniform thickness and ‘clean’ glass, it is then repolished and ground flat,

So, its not just glass – it’s a work of art….