Horse-loving princess impressed by work to save rare Suffolk Punch breed

A PROJECT to protect and expand the rare Suffolk Punch horse breed won Royal praise yesterday as it was described as “truly impressive”.

The Princess Royal had a thoroughly enjoyable morning touring the Suffolk Punch Trust at Hollesley and opening the �2 million project’s new education and heritage visitor centre.

Horses have been a lifelong passion for the Princess – who owns a four-year-old Suffolk mare – and she showed huge interest in the displays and horses, chatting happily with farriers and horsemen, grooms and harness keepers, managers and officials.

She also spoke to three young inmates from the Warren Hill Young Offenders’ Institute who carry out work at the centre, and they said she had been “down to earth” and wished them luck.

The Princess Royal, wearing a crimson coat over a green dress, arrived at the 200-acre farm by helicopter and was welcomed by the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, Lord Tollemache, before meeting dignitaries and her escort for the morning, Philp Ryder-Davies, chairman of the Suffolk Punch Trust.

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She was given an extensive tour of the new visitor centre, spending time at ten displays on various aspects of Suffolk life, chatting to the people hosting them about Suffolk breeds of livestock, some of which are kept on the site, the horses at the stud, road, water and rail transport through history, food and farming, wildlife, the work of the blacksmith, and the county’s historic churches.

Farrier and horseman Roger Clark, who had met the Princess previously, said: “She is always a joy to talk to because she is so knowledgeable and is a great ambassador for horses. I think she would have loved to have spent all day here!”

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Tom Walne, who has bred Suffolk Punches for many years, said: “She is always wonderful to talk to and so interested in the work being done.

“We need save this breed. If a castle falls down you can rebuild it, but when the last Suffolk Punch is gone the horse will be lost forever.”

The Princess looked round the stables to see some of the two dozen horses at the stud, and met Sandringham Sailor II, a gift to the stud from the Queen, and asked head groom Tracey Pettitt to lead Besthorpe Achilles around the paddock so she could watch the horse walk and trot.

She also learned about work taking place to train former racehorses for more leisurely pursuits after retiring from their sports careers.

“The way the centre has changed and evolved has been truly impressive,” said the Princess.

“I am looking forward to hearing about how much more goes on here and the impact it makes.”

She said it was vitally important not to lose the Suffolk Punches and the centre would help educate people about them as well as being an enjoyable place to visit.

Before she left she was presented with a floral posy by 11-year-old Emma Kelleway, and two of George Ewart-Evans’ books about rural life by Mr Ryder-Davies.

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