Well last month we met the lovely Helen Moran who showed me the amazing corn dollies she makes. We were discussing how heavy horses used to have little corn dollies down their manes and tails for show days, when she said “you must come to Hay farm! for their “looking back” event!
Some of the decorations for Heavy horses
So a couple of weeks hence we travelled up to the small villages of Ford and Etal in Northumberland, (part of the Joicey family estate) to visit Hay farm, a rescue centre for heavy horse breeds.
The centre also houses vintage farm machinery and paraphernalia, so was really fascinating, as well as getting to stroke the beautiful horses!
There was ploughing demonstrations on in a field where we watched French origin Percheron horses pulling a plough like a hot knife through butter! A host of working farm machinery from past decades was demonstrating what they could do.
Inside the main barn are collections of oil cans and tractor seats along with leather tack for pulling carts and machines and other curios such as vintage animal medicines and equipment.
There were slide shows playing, showing the old methods, all used by my ancestors who farmed in Norfolk before the industrial revolution.
My 2x great grandfather was a blacksmith in Yaxham, his Brother had a Windmill, and the other Brother ran a farm, The blacksmith branch of the family
moved to the North East of England to work at the steel works & railways when agricultural work dried up, due to the introduction of machines, meaning less horses & manpower were needed. So it all brought me closer to their way of life, and helped me understand what their lives must have been like.
There was some beautiful rescue Clydesdales (native of Scotland where they worked near the river Clyde pulling imports and hauling for the ship building industry)
but the other breeds you may see here are the trusty Shire, a draft horse which traditionally pulled beer, the oldest heavy breed the Suffolk Punch
and above mentioned Percheron which came over from France in the days of William the Conqueror.
Spending time with these beautiful animals was such a joy, giving us a calm, content feeling.
As well as these now rare breed horses you can also see rare breed sheep, pigs and ducks on the farm.
The looking back event also had a barn full of great stalls with traditional crafts and food, and they run regular farmers markets.
We drove into the village of Ford, where the quaint old blacksmiths shop has the most fabulous horseshoe doorway!
Throughout the summer months it is an antique and collectables shop, with rare books.
Definitely worth a visit!
We followed a stunning tree lined pathway and accidentally wandered into the grounds of Ford castle which has stood since the 13th century, a member of staff came out to chase us, but immediately fell in love with the poodles, and ended up showing us around the grounds!
We didn’t realise it was private,
and an activity centre for school children! Turns out there were none staying anyway, and it was great to see this majestic castle connected with the border skirmishes with the Scots close up!
If you do like castles, head for the village of Etal where English Heritage own Etal castle, near the battlefields of Flodden, and see great exhibitions about the border reivers.
The village is totally chocolate box, with thatched roofs and a quaint pub, old England at it’s best.
Between the two villages
sits Heatherslaw light railway where you can park and take the 4 mile round trip up to Etal village.
We had such a lovely time, wandering around the villages where the trees were in their autumn colours,
It was a bright but fresh day, so I’m glad I had this great embroidered wool skirt to wear, with rich harvest colours, teamed with a plain black jacket I made way back in my student days!
Wedge heeled boots from a charity shop, vintage wool beret from a 1940’s event, a yellow bakelite brooch and my lovers knot corn dolly made by Helen! My handbag was a great find, it has several interchangeable covers, that just button on!
I picked up a few of these plain scarves from a vintage fair for just £1 each,
really handy for keeping chills off your neck!