Council turns to horse power for new environmental project
Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter
A north Wales council is using horse power for a new environmental project following a major funding boost.
Horse logging contractor Kevin Taylor and his loyal workmate ‘Bill’ – a brown and white, 14 hands high Gypsy Cob – have been hired by the Isle of Anglesey County Council to carry out ‘bracken rolling.’
The pair’s latest work has been at the council-run Holyhead Breakwater Country Park. The traditional horse-drawn farming method sees the reduction of the scrub land plant by a roller crushing the stems – a technique favoured over cutting which can stimulate growth.
The latest work comes after the council secured three years “Sustainable Landscapes Sustainable Places” funding from the Welsh Government to run several environmental initiatives. A number of projects are being led by the Council’s Countryside and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) team after they acquired £575,000 in grant money.
One of the projects aims to enhance and restore lowland heathland around Anglesey. Approximately 12.5% of Wales’ lowland heathland occurs on the island, and it recognised as a “priority species” in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan due to being rare and threatened habitat.
Over the next three years, £125,000 of funding has been allocated to surveying Anglesey’s heathland. Bill’s gentle horse power can offers a more “sensitive approach” in its management.
The rolling technique avoids the use of chemicals or motorised vehicles, and reduces the work’s environmental footprint. Kevin, 49, has been working with 14-year-old Bill for about 10 years across the north of Wales.
Based in Gwynedd, Kevin, of Shire Cross Logging, carries out woodland management, bracken bashing and horse training, often with partner Gaynor Lewis.
Kevin said: “Bill is a cracking horse, we are work mates. We have a bond, I have worked with him since he was four.
“We work very well together and Bill really knows his job well. Working with horses is very labour intensive, but their power is much more sensitive to the environment.
“It is very physical work, you have to have a lot of strength and stamina, but it is very rewarding and beats working at a desk.” To avoid the hot weather the pair often have an early start.
Kevin said “We have been up at 3-4am lately. “But we take plenty of breaks in the shade. Bill enjoys being cooled off with a shower from the watering can. I don’t let him get over heated.
“People do enjoy watching us work, we meet a lot of dog walkers out and about, but Bill is a great horse, very friendly and quite unflappable.” He added: “I’d like to thank the people who have stopped to chat, for keeping their dogs on a lead.”
Speaking of the funding impact, Anglesey’s Deputy Leader and Economy Portfolio Holder, Councillor Carwyn Jones, said: “This funding will allow us to lead on projects that will promote biodiversity and nature recovery across the island as well as deliver sustainable tourism.
“I would like to thank our officers for their hard work in preparing and presenting the successful grant application.” AONB Community Warden Joseff Davies said: “This is such an exciting project, with the potential to run past the-year project.
“Lowland heathland is such an important landscape within Anglesey’s AONB, and we are very excited to be able to improve the condition and range of this vital habitat.” Anglesey’s Climate Change Portfolio Holder, Councillor Nicola Roberts, added: “These projects again highlight our commitments to biodiversity and tackling climate change.
“I would like to thank the Welsh Government for recognising the importance of this project and for awarding us with this grant.”
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