Cherry’s “Life with Horses”

Cherry Grover and I have both followed Ray Hubbard in giving talks to local Village Hall groups and Women’s Institutes to let them know about the work of the Suffolk Horse Society (SHS) in promoting and preserving the breed. These talks have also encouraged new members and brought some funds for the Society. In the Autumn of 2022, the Covid restrictions on meeting were finally being lifted. We decided that it was time to reinstate the social evenings that have always given members of the Society a chance to meet in a relaxed and non-competitive setting (unlike the show ring!) Cherry has always been a well organised lady, and this is reflected in the way that she carefully collected photographs of her horsey activities from childhood onwards. She went further than this and filed them in albums with brief notes about the setting. They did not include 35mm slides. Having been part of the PowerPoint presentation that I gave to celebrate the end of the National Lottery funded Oral History project, Cherry knew that I could get photographs on to a computer as ‘slides’. I then had the privilege of scanning all her photographs, making ‘slides’, and then deciding with her which ones would tell the best story. We used my projection and audio equipment so that she could respond to requests for evening talks from local organisations. These always went down well. After discussion with Jayne Groom, who is not only the Chair of the SHS Marketing Committee, but also an expert caterer, we planned the SHS Spring Social Evening for 11th March 2023. I had found it interesting to see how the black-and-white photos of that era were of a much higher quality than the newly developed, colour ones.

We had ended up with about 200 photographs, which would normally be many too many for even a one-hour talk. However, some of them only need very little screen time to be appreciated. We settled on about 180.

Cherry’s talk started with her finally persuading her parents to buy her a small pony (but no saddle) which she rode and hunted bareback. A succession of ponies and then horses followed, leading up to time with her first husband, the late Roger Clark, as they both worked as farriers while farming at Weylands Farm at Stoke-by-Nayland. Hunting with hounds and then with their own pack of bloodhounds followed. Cherry started ‘puppy walking’ at that time and this has continued up to the present day. A hunt breeds pups but then ‘farms them out’ to people who will train them in knowing their own name, basic obedience, and walking the land. Traditionally the puppy walker is then given a teaspoon for each pup. Cherry has over 200. 

The pictures included Cherry’s second marriage when she and Gordon Grover rode in hunting gear from Stoke-by-Nayland Church to their wedding reception. Another love of her life, with several stories, was Rowhedge Count 2nd, the Suffolk Punch stallion that she and Roger had at Weylands Farm. A unique collection of photos showing Cherry involved in farming activities had scenes that
will probably never be repeated as the machinery and skills will soon be lost.

Most of Cherry’s appearances in public have been at agricultural shows and farming demonstrations in local or national settings. Several examples of these illustrated her talk. It was a close-run thing to decide which was the more impressive, either driving the Coleman’s Mustard horsedrawn bus that sometimes carried a band, or driving a pantechnicon with a six-horse team of Suffolks. More bizarre occasions included pulling a fire engine that had a steam-powered water pump and was used to put out demonstration fires. Success in the show ring was frequent occurrence, and
on several occasions, royalty were there to present the awards.

I was surprised to see how often it was necessary to put on special costumes to match the turnout. The evening was a great success from the combination of an accessible venue, Cherry’s talk, the excellent meal, and the ample time for socialising and discussion. Maggie and I had sorted out the hire of the venue and the general planning. Jess Ellis had recorded those wishing to attend and then checked arrivals at the hall. The SHS bank card scanner did good service taking ticket costs both by phone in the SHS office and at the door. Jess and a few other helpers also did the washing
up while others put away the tables and chairs. Cherry’s final picture is the magnificent driver’s view of a four horse team.

Jeff Hallett March 2023