Bressingham Steam ‘On Track’

I first visited Bressingham Steam Museum as a child in 1964 when my father had just bought his first ‘new car’ and, as with all cars in that era, it needed to be Run In. Where better to go on our first trip?

I don’t remember at what speed we drove up the A140, but I do recall that we had a ‘Running In, Please Pass’ sticker on the back to let other drivers know that we wouldn’t be going as fast as them – some were even touching 50mph, I guess!

The Museum & Gardens, which includes Standard and Narrow Gauge lines, Traction Engines, Road Rollers, Gallopers, Static and Portable Engines and the National Dad’s Army Collection (as much of the BBC filming was done in the area, including in the fields behind Inglewood House) had to close abruptly due to COVID-19 and many of the Special Events planned for the summer have had to be cancelled.

Bressingham Steam ‘On Track’ Sponsorship Wall

As we regularly host visiting Engine Drivers as well as visitors to both the Museum and the Wedding Venue at Bressingham Hall, we were very pleased to be among the many supporting their ‘On Track’ Appeal to raise funds in order to survive the COVID Shutdown.

We are pleased to be a sponsor of Bressingham Steam

The trains are now running again and, as Inglewood House is about a mile from Bressingham, it is once more a great delight to hear the ‘peep-peep’ of the engines as they set off on their various journeys around the 220 acre site. Here is a link to a short video https://youtu.be/O8rxysRJuXY

The highly successful annual Steam Punk Weekend has been re-scheduled for the weekend of 29th/30th August and the Fire Engine Gathering is going ahead on Monday 31st August as is the Vintage Farming Day on 27th September so, hopefully, the end of the Season will be better for them than the beginning.

Bringing in the Harvest

One of my lasting childhood memories is running down to the bottom of our garden to watch the Combine lumber past, gathering the Corn and spewing out clouds of dust with the chaff as it progressed across the field.

A start is made on the 2020 Harvest

As the years have passed, my children have grown up enjoying the same experience – they are adults now and have left home but, although the machinery has grown somewhat since I first started watching, even now I like to take some photos each year to relive the memory!

The trailer is filled to the brim, ensuring that nothing is wasted
….. a childhood memory relived once more

Three French Hens

Although we haven’t had any guests for a while, due to the COVID lockdown, our roadside stall selling Eggs and Cut Flowers has been a real success!

A couple of weeks ago one of our older hens sadly died so we decided to expand the flock by adding a further three young chickens. Gillian has always longed for some ‘Light Sussex’ so we set about locating a local supplier. Initially it looked as if we could obtain them from a breeder from whom we’ve had chickens in the past but, the day before we were due to go over to pick them up, we received a phone call telling us that the Fox had got in during the previous night and they now had none to sell.

We rang around some other breeders and had the same reply from each: there is a great shortage, Europe-wide, caused by people wishing during the lockdown for a bit of the ‘Good Life’ by keeping their own chickens. Each had a Waiting List but were expecting some fresh hens in at the start of the Month. It transpires that they are shipped over from France to a sort of Poultry Wholesaler from whom the breeders can then buy them for selling on to the likes of us.

Yesterday we drove over to Norfolk & Suffolk Hens https://suffolkandnorfolkchickens.co.uk/ to collect 2 x Light Sussex and a Copper Maran that had been reserved for us as they were selling so fast. We temporarily housed them in a small run within the larger run so that the new & old chickens could familiarise themselves with each other, but we have introduced them to each other this morning. There will follow, as always, a short period of ‘sorting out the new pecking order’ and everyone will then know where they stand.

Yvette (in the foreground), Michelle (at the back) and Madame Edith

As they are of French extraction, we have decided to call the Copper Maran ‘Madame Edith’ while the two Light Sussex’s are ‘Yvette’ and ‘Michelle’.

Getting to know you, over a bite to eat
Madame Edith’s iridescent feathers shine in the the dappled sunlight
Exploring the Paddock

My mind was taken back to a conversation I had with some French guests a couple of years ago. I mentioned “Oeufs de nos poulets” when serving their Breakfast – it was the first time they had experienced a Full English Breakfast, so their eyes were out on stalks, anyway! They corrected my Schoolboy French, though, as I didn’t realise that “Poulet” is their word for chicken as a food, while the actual bird is “une Poule”. Every day is a School day, full of cultural enrichment, at Inglewood House B&B! 

An Eggs-ellent idea

As our hens are not aware that we are living through the COVID-19 shutdown, they are continuing to lay eggs which would, in normal times, have been enjoyed by our guests as part of their Full English Breakfast.

We can only eat so many cakes, quiches and omelettes ourselves, so we thought it would be an eggs-ellent idea to set up a little stall outside.

The newly erected Egg Stall outside Inglewood House

Wilney Green is never a very busy place at the best of times but let’s hope that our passers-by think it a cracking offer they would like to shell out on!

VE Day Red Arrows Fly past

It was a great thrill to see that the Red Arrow’s VE Day flight path would pass directly over Inglewood House, en-route for Buckingham Palace this morning. They were, as might be expected, exactly on time but came at such speed that we weren’t able to catch a picture of them. Instead here is a shot, taken shortly afterwards, of the bit of sky they had passed through………..

The area of sky through which the Red Arrows had flown only a few seconds previously

Working from Home

The view from my Office is a slightly ‘tongue-in cheek’ caption for this photo, in that we don’t usually conduct our business from a hammock in the garden but, with weather like we have been having recently and with all the fruit & cherry trees being in full blossom, why not?

The View from my Office

In reality, the ‘lockdown’ that is currently in place hasn’t altered our lives, too much. Very little traffic passes through Wilney Green even in ‘normal’ times so, for us, life has continued very much as normal. The Postman and Dustmen continue to call and the internet, although sometimes a little ‘rural’, is doing us proud despite the enormous strain it must be under, nationally.

For obvious reasons we’ve not been having any guests at Inglewood House, in the past few weeks, but this has given us a chance to get on with all the ‘spring cleaning’ jobs in the garden – the first few grass cuts of the year, the planting of vegetable seeds and their subsequent pricking out, and the building of butterfly net cages to protect them once they are ‘growing on’ in the vegetable patches.

A recent project has been to make seed trays from sections of old guttering with gaffer-tape ends, which can be removed at a later date to ease the transfer of the seedling bearing soil straight into the ground.

Seed trays – some re-purposed from sections of old guttering

The white cherry outside the Cream Bedroom’s window is as magnificent as it always is at this time of year, as are the pink cherries that can be seen from the Purple Bedroom.

The White Cherry outside the Cream Bedroom
The Pink Cherry that can be seen from the Purple Bedroom and the Marsh Marigolds around the Pond

The apple trees are also in full flower, so it looks as if we will have a good crop later in the year. Also, a plentiful supply of Blueberries and grapes!

Apple Blossom

Guests are always welcome to have a stroll around the garden and many do. We look forward to being able to resume this pleasure as soon as the lockdown eases.

In the meantime, we hope that everyone stays well & safe.

A Chicken called Ian

As our trusty band of hens are becoming ‘old ladies’ and rather intermittent layers, we decided that we’d introduce some new blood to the flock in the Spring.

Just as we were having that idea, Gillian learned of some hens that were in need of re-homing due to a marital split and we agreed to take a couple of them.

Meanwhile, we had also promised ourselves a pair of ‘Bluebells’ (a Rhode Island Red x Marans Coucou) as we’ve had one, who we called Bluey, in the past and were very sad to lose her.

Our plans were put back a little by the Storms we have been having recently, but this morning we set off to collect them.

Our first trip, this morning, was to get the ones that were requiring a new home. There were several on offer, but we chose a brown one, similar to a New Hampshire, and a Lavender Blue which the owner had named ‘Ian’ after the actor who played Private Pike in Dad’s Army who, by co-incidence, lives not that far away. We spent the journey home thinking of a suitable name for the maternal brown hen in the box with ‘Ian’ and decided upon ‘Mavis’ as that is Mrs Pike’s first name.

Ian and Mavis

After a quick coffee, it was back in the car to The Good, The Bad and the Hungry – an equestrian centre in Wingfield that also sells chickens and, more importantly, has a farm cafe that serves delicious lunches. Well replenished, we were shown to where the two point-of-lay chickens we had reserved were being kept. These will be called ‘Blue’ and ‘Belle’, with the latter being just recognisable as the one with the dark spots on a couple of her tail feathers.

Gillian holding Blue and Dawn with Belle

We have, for the time being, put the newcomers in a coop within the chicken run so that they can see and hear the resident flock but not actually intermingle with them just yet.

Blue and Belle in the holding coop

They were all fed within sight of each other but the ‘old girls’ showed very little interest in the new ones.

The ‘old girls’ showed very little interest in the newcomers

All flocks have a ‘pecking order’ and one will be established once they are introduced. We will do this at night time, when they are docile, and then they will wake up together. We have an idea who will be ‘top hen’ and roughly the order thereafter – but it will be interesting to find out if we were right!

We Plough the Fields

After quite a few days of grey skies, rain and strong winds it was a great delight to wake up this morning and look out to see the brightness of the sunshine over the Waveney Valley.

The field directly behind us has already been harvested, cultivated and drilled with next year’s crop but in the one beyond that sugar beet have been steadily growing and today is the day that they are being lifted.

There have been distant rumblings coming from the farmyard up the road for the last couple of days as beet from other fields has been loaded into the lorries to be taken to the British Sugar factory at Bury St Edmunds and today is this field’s turn.

Ploughing the field

Such is the speed of modern agriculture that there are four machines working at once – one lifting the beet, one bringing the trailer into which it is loaded on the move, one ploughing the field once the beet has been lifted and one drilling next year’s crop!

Lifting the beet, loading the trailer and drilling the next crop

It’s fascinating to watch, especially from the warmth of our ground-source fed, underfloor heated, house as the temperature out there, despite the sunlight, is a chilly 6 degrees!

Young Fledglings

Over the past few weeks we have been watching a lot of birds going to and fro with mouthfuls of grubs and seeds as their offspring have hatched.

We have a number of nest boxes of differing designs in various locations around the garden, designed to appeal to such birds as Robins, Sparrows, Wrens, Blue tits and Owls.

The Tawny Owls that nested in a box intended for Little Owls last year did not return this time, but we have heard them in the nearby Orchard, so we know they have found somewhere they like.

The ‘Letterbox’ nest box is always a firm favourite with Blue tits and it has been a great delight to once again see their large family fledge from there and congregate on the nut feeder just outside our Sitting room window.

Several pairs of Blackbirds have been bringing their young to the bird feeder just outside the Guest’s Dining Room and we’ve been pleased to see that our resident Robins, Thrushes, Green Finches, Goldfinches and Wagtails have also all raised families as have the Green Woodpeckers who often visit us from the Orchard. Last week a youngster came to the bird feeder just outside the kitchen door and fed confidently by itself, but reverted to being a ‘begging chick’ as soon as the parent bird joined it!

The young Green Woodpecker is joined by its parent
And is soon begging for food, as it did in the nest……..
…… a ruse which works well!

Every so often, a pair of Jays also visit the bird feeder – they are beautiful birds when seen close up and we hope they are breeding, too.

There are a pair of Cuckoos around but we haven’t, as yet, seen any of their young being dutifully fed by their surrogate parents.

The Buzzards continue to soar, lazily, on the thermals over the field behind Inglewood House – they don’t come into the garden or the Orchard, so the smaller birds know they have a haven in which to live. Our two ‘adoptive’ cats seem not to bother them too much, either – they look at anything that moves and the younger one sometimes makes play pounces in the direction of a pigeon (which would be far too big for him to deal with!) but, in general, they seem content to be fed by us rather than have to stalk their own prey.

Bees!

Bees!

We are most fortunate to have some Bee Orchids growing ‘wild’ in our grass. Three years ago there were two, near the bottom of the garden – where they came from is anyone’s guess.

The first Bee Orchid of the year

They obviously like it here, though – they have spread as their seed has blown up the garden and even into the front garden and the grass verge near the road. We have ten plants this year.

We have ten of these plants, each of which will have three blooms

So called because the flower resembles a bee as it searches for pollen, it was somewhat ironic when we also had a swarm of ‘real’ bees arrive at the end of last month looking for somewhere to set up home.

Swarming Bees looking for a new home

They took a liking to one of the nest boxes which we had built into the gable end of the house when it was extended, intended for Swifts. By coincidence we’d seen some ‘scout’ bees investigating the entrance a few days beforehand but had thought nothing of it. We knew when the swarm had arrived, though, as the humming noise was louder than I can describe – and all at the same pitch!

The sky darkened as more and more bees arrived……..
The chosen Nest hole

We contacted the Norfolk Bee Keepers and, as luck would have it, one of their members lives in Bressingham. He duly arrived with his Bee Keeper’s clothing and a wooden box about twice as tall as a Shoe box, in which there was a small hole at the base of one of the sides. In a simple action he opened the nest box trap door in the roof and scooped the mass of bees into it in much the same way I imagine a Bear would do when trying to find some tasty honey to eat. His plan was that, as long as he had taken the Queen in with all the other bees and the old nesting material that was still in the nest box, the other bees would fly through the open trap door and join her in the box.

Having left it for a few hours, he returned and taped up the hole in the box whilst also closing the trap door and blocking the outer hole in the wall. He explained that there would be a few ‘late arrivals’ who would find their way barred but that they would give up after a day or so. That is, indeed, what happened and we’ve not heard any buzzing since.

Meanwhile the bees are happily settling into one of his hives in School Road. As it is only about a mile away, there was the chance that they might fly from there to a feeding location in this direction, realise where they were and follow their noses back to their old home. He thought it unlikely, though, as they’d not been here long enough to establish such routes and it seems he was right.

Alongside the home-made jams, we serve honey at the Breakfast table – the current pot is from a hive in Hall Road but, when it is exhausted, we will have some of School Road’s finest and know that the bees that made it had previously chosen to live with us.