Horses are being used at Swindon’s historic Lydiard Park to pull and remove timber as part of the woodland management programme.
Four heavy horses have been a work in the park since early December and on Saturday 16 December, from 11am, visitors to the park will able to watch them at work and see how this traditional craft is being used to maintain the woodland sites.
The two teams of horses will be working close to the walled garden approximately 200 metres from the visitor centre. They are two Belgian bred Ardennes called Jeton and Yser, driven by Frankie Woodgate of Natural Traction, who are pulling the felled trunks and branches. Two Clydesdales, Clyde and Drum, managed by John Bunce of Pine Ridge Timber Horses, are doing the heavy lifting and pulling away to a timber stack.
Shire horses and other heavy horse breeds were once a common sight on farmland across the country before the arrival of the tractor and have been used to pull timber from forests and woodlands for centuries. The use of working horses began to decline after World War II and by the mid 1970s had been virtually eradicated. However, during the last 10 to 15 years there has been a growing reversal of this trend and the advantage of horse drawn over mechanised extraction has been recognised. Horses are relatively light, quiet and manoeuvrable so their use minimises damage to the environment – through exhaust and noise pollution, damage to standing trees and coppices, compactions, ruts and damage to the woodland floor.
The horse logging demonstration is part of the active programme of woodland management at Lydiard Park, which will include the planting of over 400 new parkland trees and 11,000 trees in two native woodlands within the park.
The Lydiard Park Project is a ?5 million scheme to restore the historic landscape features of the park and upgrade visitor facilities. It is funded by a major award from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Swindon Borough Council’s partners in this ambitious scheme are English Heritage, the Forestry Commission and DEFRA, along with business partners RWE npower, the BMW Group, Intel UK Ltd, Halcrow Ltd and MAN ERF.
If visiting on 16 January, wrap up warm and wear boots as its muddy in the park.