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BRIDLE SWEET; Rare horses beat tractors.

Byline: Oliver Wheaton

RARE draught horses are being used to clear woodland for the first time in half a century.

The powerful Suffolk Punches are an environmentally friendly way to shift trees. Instead, tractors would churn the earth and are noisy.

Andrew Curtin, a councillor for the East London borough of Havering, said: "The tractors were actually doing more harm than good.

"We have found using these horses is a much more practical and effective method of conservation.

"It has become a family day out too.

Lots of people bring their kids up to see the horses at work and it really is a lovely sight."

Suffolk Punches are the oldest breed of heavy horse.

They are one of the rarest breeds on the planet, with fewer than 450 pure specimens left worldwide.

They date from the 16th century and were generally put to work on farms but were phased out as farmers began using machinery.

Cllr Curtin said: "So there is also a historical tag to this green initiative. Up until the 20th century Havering was a big cattle and horse area in England. It is great to be reviving this piece of history."

The horses, which are always chestnut in colour, are currently thinning areas of woodland to allow for healthy regrowth in the area, which was part of Essex until 1963.

Flourish One hope is that by creating warm, sunny clearings, species of butterfly such as Speckled Wood and Holly Blue will flourish.

The popularity of the scheme has led Havering Council to consider using other working animals in the future.

Cllr Curtin said: "Havering is an environmentally aware borough and we are taking the lead in conservation work around London.

"We are hoping that other boroughs will follow our lead to make London a greener city.

"An area nearby has sloped fields which are very hard to maintain with tractors so we are hoping to graze cattle there to trim the grass."
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The People (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 4, 2014
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