New era for Suffolk Punch stud

THE relaunch of a world-famous Suffolk Punch stud was given a fitting start yesterday when a foal was born hours before the official ceremony to mark the handover from the Prison Service.

By Richard Smith

THE relaunch of a world-famous Suffolk Punch stud was given a fitting start yesterday when a foal was born hours before the official ceremony to mark the handover from the Prison Service.

The stud farm, horses and the oldest registered flock of Suffolk sheep in the world at Hollesley, near Woodbridge, have been bought by the Suffolk Punch Trust.

In the last few weeks three foals have been born - and the trust is hoping to increase the number of horses from 25 to 40 at the farm where Suffolk horses have been bred for 250 years. The stud has previously been run by the Prison Service, with inmates at Hollesley Bay jail working with the horses.

Future development at the site involves a lecture theatre, restaurant and offices, the expansion of the stud with facilities to take in breeders' mares for the trusts' stallions and the maintenance of the flock of Suffolk sheep.

Breeding groups of other Suffolk breeds of Red Poll cattle, Large Black pigs, Ixworth fowls and Silver Appleyard ducks will be established and a garden containing horticultural varieties of plants initially bred in Suffolk will be grown.

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Up to 200 acres of arable land will be returned to permanent grass with hedges using an 1890 field plan and ponds will be landscaped to encourage wildlife.

Ken Kan, Hollesley Bay prison governor, said: “We will continue to work with the trust by supplying suitable prisoners to look after the horses and to keep the project going. It is our contribution to preserve our heritage.”

The Suffolk Punch Trust raised £580,000 to buy the land, animals and buildings and completed the deal before the deadline of yesterday, after which it would have lost the opportunity. The Hollesley stud is seen as crucial to the future of the breed - in 2001, a report warned the breed could become extinct in 15 years if the stud was not safeguarded.

The trust's £4m project to turn the site into a major visitor centre suffered a setback when it failed to secure lottery funding last year but organisers remain confident of achieving their goal.

John Marsh, project manager, said: “This is only the beginning. We wanted to raise £4million and we still do, but instead of being able to deliver all in one go, we have had to put it into bite-size chunks to deliver in the next three to five years.”

Princess Anne, patron of the Suffolk Horse Society, has contributed financially to the trust and Philip Ryder-Davies, trust chairman, said her support was a valuable morale-booster for everyone and gave the project added credibility.

Mr Ryder-Davies said there would be benefits for prisoners and the community.

“There will be education and rehabilitation of offenders using a wide range of facilities and we wish to ensure that socially excluded people are able to get the benefit of all that we have to offer,” he said.

“The farm, with its adjoining marshes and seashore, will be used to teach children and adults about rural and agricultural matters and the natural environment. Young people from deprived inner city areas will be a key target for educational programmes.

“The running of horses in a wide variety of subjects involving, for example, the use of horses for work such as ploughing, livestock husbandry and horticulture and the provision of facilities for a farrier, harness maker and wheelwright will be included.”

Four pupils from Needham Market Middle School and headteacher Sue Hull attended the event.

Syvanna Brett, 13, Alex Caley, 12, Eilish Currie, 10, and Fern Teather, nine, were chosen for the high quality of their essays on the stud. The school has raised £250 for the trust through a non-uniform day.

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