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Hurricane force help for woods; OLD FASHIONED HORSE POWER IS HARNESSED.

Byline: ANDREW FORGRAVE

WORKING without reins, and responding only to verbal commands, two logging horses are bringing new life to a long-neglected woodland.

A Percheron heavy horse called Ouragan (French for "Hurricane") and an Ardennes draught beast named Lisa, are in the process of thinning a seven-acre oak woodland on the Bodnant estate, Eglwysbach.

The job got underway last year but this week they have returned to finish the job of removing 250 tonnes of timber.

The job is being led by Chris Wadsworth, a former lab technician who is now one of the UK's leading horse logging contractors.

Working alongside him is his apprentice, 34-year-old German Steffi Schaffer.

Chris said: "This woodland had not been managed for more than 150 years.

"Until recently, bringing a long neglected woodland back into management was simply too expensive.

"But now that everyone has a wood-burning stove, the price of firewood has shot up and it has become economically viable."

The Yorkshireman and his snigging team were hired by Bodnant woodland managers Prior and Ricketts because access to the oak woodland was difficult.

"It was felt heavy forestry machinery would cause too much of a mess," said Chris.

Built like tanks, the two horses have the job of hauling timber cut by chainsaw operator Andrew Iredale.

Neither are steered by reins. Instead they respond simply to the words "hop" for left and "Ar" for right.

"I learned how to handle horses from an old Yorkshire farmer who issued commands in the regional dialect," said Chris.

"Just as in Wales where horses are trained to respond to Welsh."

While much of his work is linked to conservation, he has diversified into horsedrawn bracken rolling, scarification chain-harrowing and organic cultivation.

"I don't consider it a traditional craft," added Chris.

"It's just a modern take on an old idea."

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Horses being used for ploughing on the Bodnant estate in the early 1950s Chris Wadsworth and his logging horse Hurricane extract timber the eco friendly way
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 26, 2012
Words:331
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