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Horses to be used to remove infected trees from ancient woodlands

07 Jan 2024 2 minute read
Horse logging. Photo NRW

Natural Resources Wales will use horse power to remove infected trees from ancient woodlands.

NRW’s Forest Operations and Land Management teams will turn back the clock to use traditional forestry skills to thin an area of sensitive woodland in Fforest Fawr near Tongwynlais, on the outskirts of Cardiff.

Horse logging is an ancient sustainable forest management technique that uses horses to pull timber from felling areas without the need for large machines and with minimal damage to the ground and other plants.

The work to thin and harvest larch trees that are infected with Phytophthora Ramorum, commonly known as larch disease, will start on 15 January 2024 and will continue for about three months.

These infected trees are under a Statutory Plant Health Notice and need to be thinned or felled to stop the spread of the disease.

Precision felling

The area of operations, 4.7 hectares, is not entirely larch, the rest being native broadleaved species that will not be felled. Precision felling and timber extraction is required to minimise damage to the surrounding broadleaved trees and other important archaeological features.

The thinning of the larch will also allow the broadleaf canopy to increase. As a Planted Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) woodland, this work will help to restore and improve its ecological potential.

Horses, horse boxes, welfare provisions and associated equipment will be kept on site for the duration of the work.

While the Fforest Fawr car park will remain open, visitors to the woodland are asked to adhere to any safety signs or diversions, and to keep dogs on leads in and around the work area.


Chris Rees, Forest Operations Team Leader for Natural Resources Wales said: “Horse logging has been around for thousands of years and is still a viable and sustainable method of extracting timber in modern day forest operations.

“Using horses rather than machines in environmentally sensitive areas gives us a low impact and sympathetic solution, particularly for managing important ancient woodlands and archeologic sites.

“We used horses in other South Wales Central woodlands last year and we’re looking forward to keeping this wonderful tradition alive in Fforest Fawr.”

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