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Lowestoft Evening WI

PUBLISHED: 12:53 01 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:18 06 July 2010

The meeting started with notification of forthcoming events in the WI calendar and reminders were given of entries for the WI marquee at the Suffolk Show and volunteers' contributions requested for the WI catering tent at the show.

The meeting started with notification of forthcoming events in the WI calendar and reminders were given of entries for the WI marquee at the Suffolk Show and volunteers' contributions requested for the WI catering tent at the show. The evening's talk, illustrated by slides, was about Suffolk Punch horses by Chris Miller from the Suffolk Punch Horse Trust from its earliest recorded mention in the 16th century to the present day. It is the oldest of the heavy horse breeds and its work was on farms, in forestry, in breweries, at railway stations and docks and to assist carriers who delivered goods in local towns and villages. Chris explained that the tractor was the death knell of the heavy horse after world war two, with the demand for cheaper food, yet the Suffolk Punch is still with us, due to the initiative and determination of certain people and agencies.

In 1938, HM Prisons agricultural college at Hollesley Bay wanted to keep the heavy horse tradition going and borstal boys were trained to use the horses as part of their rehabilitation. In 2000, the prison service put the stud up for sale and the Suffolk Punch Trust was created. By 2006, with public donations, the trust was able to purchase 33 horses. The trust is open to booked public viewing, with many visits from children from London. It has a bird of prey centre and is a refuge for retired race-horses. The trust hopes to expand and have a visitors' centre in September. The Queen has given the trust a gelding, Sandringham Sailor II, from her own Suffolk Punch mare, Poppy.

Refreshments followed and the evening finished with a reminder about the visit to Jane Bastow's garden on May 12. Next meeting at Hildesley Court on May 11.

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