I always seem to forget about the wonderful tourist attractions we have in our area and Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse is one such place.
I had visited when in junior school where we had to dress as Victorian children and again as an adult with a school I worked at. This Saturday was the third and most enjoyable time. The festival only enhanced what is a wonderfully fascinating place to visit.
We arrived just before 10am, this was the first time of attending an event like this on my own with both children (ages 19 months and 4 years) and although it was hard work it was well worth it. Once our tickets had been seen and we received our Gruffalo treasure trail cards and farm stamp cards we went into the main entrance where the imposing former workhouse stands. In front was a climbing wall which was busy all day, in this area was a bee-keeper with real live bees to show people, both children were fascinated and soon more children arrived to stare at them in wonder. All the children were full of questions and listened carefully as the bee-keeper answered. We even got to see the Queen Bee! Here we got our first sticker for the Gruffalo treasure trail.
Next stall was the Norfolk Wildlife Trust where we collected another sticker. There were photographs and information about different hawks and owls and children could choose a picture of an owl to cut and colour to make a book mark. Next up was where Eila made a newspaper pot and planted some sunflower seeds, it was explained to her that she could plant it in the garden and it would bio-degrade away and the seeds would grow and the flowers would attract the butterflies and bees.
Also in this area was Norfolk Tortoise Club where they had a giant tortoise and many small tortoises and even tiny baby ones. The giant one drew many crowds!
The brilliant Fairly Famous Family bought random festival fun to the event with their Liver Cottage “cooking demos” and their hilarious Anyone for Tennis which drew in crowds and entertained and intrigued all ages.
In a marquee nearby was Kiddy Cook who were doing drop in workshops making Lemonade and savoury wraps. I was interested to learn that it’s better to use a sweetener in the lemonade as it dissolves in the sparkling water quicker than sugar which would need to be dissolved in a pan first, I had heard of them before so it was good to see them in action.
Also in the marquee was a mini farmers market with a range of local producers. I didn’t really have much opportunity to look around as young children aren’t really into farmers markets! However Evan couldn’t get enough of the delicious brownies from Cupcakes and Cookies and I treated myself to an Oreo cupcake. I also bought a savoury muffin from the wonderful WOW Muffins makers of delicious gluten and wheat free muffins. They even remembered me from my local farmer’s market!
There was also the most amazing and unusual taste sensation on offer in the form of waffles on a stick from The Waffle Works at the bargain price of £2 for a waffle with chocolate sauce and chopped nuts! yum!
Food could also be purchased from the onsite cafe and all vendors were very reasonably priced and very high quality which for me being a foodie is always a major plus point.
On wandering further round the site there were small gazebos set up with live music, most of the acts I saw were young very talented people with beautiful voices, it was lovely to see children dancing and families just kicking back and enjoying the atmosphere.
Further round the site, behind the workhouse chapel and school house (all of which were open to the public as was the main workhouse) were various workshops.
We had a great time in the drumming work shop with Blake where he taught us basic drumming and we all played different beats. Both children absolutely loved this and there were children from ages 1-9 taking part and I felt Blake adapted his teaching well to the wide age range.
Our firm favourites The Fairyland Trust were there with their crown making workshops but Eila decided not to do that as she said she would wait till the Real Halloween! Unfortunately we seemed to miss all the fun of the storytelling tent from with children’s authors, and in attendance were authors Sheridan Winn, Joyce Dunbar and Kevin Price and sharing their books with children. However we did get to see The Gruffalo and both children were in awe as was I! there were so many delighted children who were excited to have a picture with him.
Also in this area was the Norfolk Knitters which I would loved to have joined in with had I had another adult with me to help, looked like great fun, I am a keen knitter and crocheter and would have loved to pick up some new tips and techniques.
Doodles 4 Kids were constantly busy with making Gruffalo inspired puppets, Eila chose to make Snake and also wanted to make Mouse and was given a little kit to make Mouse at home which I thought was a lovely touch. The ladies running the stall were brilliant, really friendly and helpful and I will certainly be checking them out again.
Round the corner was Andy’s Mobile Archery which proved to be very popular throughout the day, they were one of the places to collect a sticker for the Gruffalo Treasure hunt from and as there was always a huge queue we missed out on this stamp, still it was great to see people having so much fun learning archery.
The most unique thing about this festival was the fact it was on an already popular tourist attraction and the festival complemented this. It made visitors more aware of what organisations are in the local area and what they do, it made me realise that Gressenhall is incredibly interesting and is definitely somewhere to go back. It was lovely to wander around the farm and see the animals and old farmhouse and collect the stamps, Eila loved the children’s play area which was cleverly built into the trees and looked a lot of fun. We will most certainly be visiting again.
Highlights for us were: bees, giant tortoise, drumming, play area, farm, The Gruffalo, collecting stickers and stamps to name a few.
I was really lucky to bump into Lisa Green from Breckland Council one of the main organisers. She was thrilled with visitors feedback and really pleased with how the event had gone. I really couldn’t compliment the event any more for everything that was provided and for such a reasonable price. I do hope we can attend next year and hopefully my husband will be able to make it too and we will be able to enjoy it even more.
It just goes to show you don’t need to stay in a tent to get a festival experience – more often than not, something wonderful is on your doorstep.
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