[A] council is reverting to traditional methods hundreds of years old to manage an area of woodland it owns.
South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) will be using some real horsepower as it carries out woodland thinning works at School Knott, Windermere.
To minimise disruption some of the work will involve extraction of timber by horses.
Far from being old-fashioned, to this day working horses in forestry is considered the most environmentally friendly method of timber extraction.
The real benefit of horsepower is on sensitive sites, next to rivers and lakes, steep ground and amenity woodlands frequented by the public, which is why the council has brought in the services of Grange-based Celtic Horse Logging to help out at School Knott.
The work at School Knott is being carried out under a Forestry Commission approved Woodland Management Plan.
The works are to remove diseased trees and encourage natural regeneration, to create a wider selection of wildlife habitats and improve the ecological value of the woodland.
Simon Lenihan from Celtic Horse Logging said using horses in forestry can also have flood prevention benefits.
He explained: “We are all aware of the damage caused by large scale machines working on sensitive sites, deep ruts and ground compaction which results in run-off, which can result in flooding.
“Ground ‘skidding’ with horses causes ground scarification as opposed to compaction, which helps the regeneration of young trees and prevents water run-off.
“Working horses in forestry is sustainable and carbon neutral – the horses are powered by hay and grain with the by-product going back into the soil to replenish it. This is not a harvesting method from the past but very much a method for the future.’’
Celtic Horse Logging have six horses, a mixture of Belgian Ardennes and North Swedish, which have been bred for forestry work.
The company has worked all over the UK and can boast some royal connections, with Prince Charles employing Celtic Horse Logging to carry out forestry work on his Balmoral and Duchy of Cornwall estates.
Simon Lenihan continued: “The Prince is a real champion-of-champions for horse-logging. He’s provided work on his estates and has put on events in every corner of the country to revive the practice and keep it alive.”
SLDC arboriculturalist Graham Nicholson said: “This is still the most effective, environmentally-friendly way to carry out this sort of work, as well as being a magnificent sight.
“The job being done by the horses at School Knott will ensure the woodland and wildlife habitats are preserved and protected and that this important area is maintained for the enjoyment of future generations.’’