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Horse power puts life into the wood; Sensitive land benefits from delicate work.

Byline: Tony Henderson

HORSES are helping to turn the clock back on some ancient woodland in Northumberland.

Businesswoman Noelle Wright bought the 10-acre Chapel House Wood next to her home near Allendale with the aim of preserving it for wildlife.

To reinvigorate the wood, Noelle is working with the Forestry Commission and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership. The first step has been to bring in logger Chris Wadsworth and his 10-year-old heavy horse, Ouragan, a Percheron or French Draught.

They are kinder on the sensitive terrain and are removing five tonnes of timber, including invasive sycamore, allowing light to penetrate the overgrown wood.

The job is benefiting from extra horse power in the shape of 33-year-old apprentice, Steffi Schaffler, originally from Munich, and her horse, Lisa, a 12-year-old Ardennes.

Steffi switched from organic farming to win a place on a new three-year training course run by the British Horse Loggers Trust. Set up to ensure a new generation of loggers keeps old skills alive, Steffi is one of just three such apprentices in the UK, and is now working with Chris to benefit from his 21 years' experience as a woodsman.

Chris said: "Although it's a very old way of hauling timber, horse logging still has a bright future.

"Not only is it gentler on ground flora, but sometimes it can be the most economic or indeed the only viable option of working a wood.

"It really is important that we have young loggers coming forward."

The Forestry Commission's Ian Everard, said many woods in the North Pennines were on difficult terrain or sensitive to disturbance, so horse logging could play a big role in putting them back to work.

"We have provided pounds 4,000 to support the scheme at Chapel House Wood," he said.

"Working with the AONB and the far-sighted owner, we now have a good management plan in place.

"This, combined with old fashioned horse sense, means the future here looks very promising."

Ancient woods, dubbed Britain's rain forests, are irreplaceable for many plants and animals.

But a recent report found that 43 of 94 ancient woods surveyed in the North Pennines AONB were in a poor condition.

Jon Charlton, programme development manager for the North Pennines AONB Partnership, said: "The ancient and semi natural woodlands of the North Pennines are relatively scarce and the project at Chapel House Wood is a great example of what can be done with traditional skills and a committed owner."

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KIND OPERATORS Steffi Schaffler, who is originally from Munich, Germany, with her horse Lisa and logger Chris Wadsworth VALUABLE WORK Apprentice horse logger Steffi Schaffler with her horse Lisa at work in Allendale, Northumberland

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 23, 2012
Words:455
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