Harnessing History - The Suffolk Punch Trust
From chariot burials dating back to circa c.2000 BC and the Middle Ages to the Great Plains of America and the Industrial Age, the importance of the horse in the development of human civilisation has been well documented. Although horses of all breeds have proven to be invaluable in empowering more efficient transport, manufacturing and farming technologies throughout the ages, these noble creatures have come to represent so much more than mere ‘assets’ or ‘tools’. Indeed, for many people, horses are much loved as pets and trusted friends.
There are over 350 breeds of ponies and horses in the world today that fall into several categories that are comprised of wild or semi-wild Feral Horses, such as the iconic Mustang; Ponies that are usually no larger than 58 inches tall (14.2 hands and under), including Shetland, Haflinger and Caspian ponies; Light Horses such as Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses and Morgans; and Heavy Horses that are draft or larger horses weighing up to 2000 pounds and include breeds like Clydesdale and Shire horses, as well as the Suffolk Punch.
Also known as the Suffolk Horse or Suffolk Sorrel, the Suffolk Punch breed was originally developed to undertake farm work during the early 16th century and takes its name from the East Anglian county of Suffolk, as well as from the word ‘Punch’ – referencing the animal’s formidable frame and strength. Despite its impressive strength, the Suffolk Punch breed is a relatively docile animal with a strong work ethic and surprisingly energetic gait. The Suffolk Punch is easily identifiable by its chestnut colour, which is traditionally spelt ‘Chesnut’ in breed registries, as well as by its shorter height and greater bulk when compared to other heavy breeds.
The physical strength and determined work ethic of the Suffolk Punch has earnt the breed a trusted reputation as a stalwart partner in farm work, as well as in pulling everything from artillery and non-motorised vehicles. Sadly, the rapid rise in mechanised solutions that took place in the wake of the Second World War caused a decline in the need for the Suffolk Punch and the breed rapidly began to disappear. Thankfully, there has been a resurgence in population numbers for the Suffolk Punch in recent years and today they are typically used in draught work, forestry and advertising.
This preservation of the Suffolk Punch breed is thanks in no small part to the efforts of groups such as the Suffolk Punch Trust. Although the trust initially opened its doors to the public during 2010, the roots of the charity actually date back all the way to 1759, when the Barthrop family first introduced Suffolk Punches to the Hollesley estate, meaning that the Punches have continued to be bred at the site for more than 250 years!
Over the years, the Hollesley estate has survived two World Wars, been a farm and even operated as both a Young Offenders Open Prison and an Adult Open Prison. In 2002, the Suffolk Punch Trust was finally established and given three years by HM Prison Service to establish the required money to buy the stud and 188 acres of farmland. This was achieved in 2006, through donations and the support of several prominent people, including HRH the Princess Royal and TV presenter Paul Heiney.
By 2010 the Suffolk Punch Trust began to welcome visitors and today the charity continues to work to preserve the Suffolk Punch breed, as well as the skills required to allow people to work with these fantastic creatures. Further to taking care of close to 20 horses of all ages, the Suffolk Punch Trust also manages a farm complete with pigs, sheep, cattle and chickens. These are joined by Bumble, a Traditional Gypsy Cob that is owned by Stud Manager, Tracey Pettitt and who was rescued from the side of the road at only a few months old. Despite a difficult start in life, Bumble is now a happy and outgoing character that enjoys nothing more than a good game of football!
In conjunction with its fully active farm, The Suffolk Punch Trust offers various demonstrations and activities for guests to get involved in, as well as heritage walks, a museum and barn, a beautiful garden, gift shop and café. There is so much to do at the Suffolk Punch Trust and so many friends to be made around the farm that visitors of all ages will be charmed and entertained time and time again. Not only is the Suffolk Punch Trust a fantastic day out, but is also a great cause that is well worth supporting.
Written by Andrew Dann
If The Suffolk Punch Trust sounds like a great day out for you, your friends and your family, but a little too away far for a day trip, why not stay in one of our wonderful holiday cottages located only a stone's throw away from the trust. 1 The Knoll, nestled in Shoddisham, is a short fifteen-minute drive from The Suffolk Punch Trust and is a charming, three bedroom cottage in an authentic Suffolk village, pub included! Or why not stay at Windy Ridge, a unique holiday home with a lookout tower boasting panoramic views of the Suffolk Coast. Step out of the front door and you're on the beach, or take a scenic three-mile walk to The Suffolk Punch Trust. If you'd like to stay somewhere really close to the horsey haven, Vale View can be found in the same village and is a stunning first-floor apartment on the tranquil Vale Farm. Enjoy being surrounded by ten acres of wildlife including a farm, lake and landscape garden.