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


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 . . .

Originally posted on 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).


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)