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Endangered horses could help manage Havering’s derelict woodland

One of the Suffolk Punches at work. Picture: Hawthorn Heavy Horses One of the Suffolk Punches at work. Picture: Hawthorn Heavy Horses

Tuesday, December 3, 2013
10:41 AM

One of the world’s rarest breeds of horse could soon be used by Havering Council as an innovative and eco-friendly way of managing the borough’s woodland.

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The endangered chesnut Suffolk Punch farm horses will this week help move wood and trim branches to encourage new growth of shrubs, trees and wildflowers in derelict woodland, in a seven-day pilot scheme.

It is hoped this will create clearings to attract more wildlife, including species of butterflies such as Speckled Wood, Brimstone and Holly Blue.

Residents can come along and see the horses, provided by Chelmsford-based Hawthorn Heavy Horses, in action on Saturday between 10am and 3pm at Havering Country Park.

They should come to the Orange Tree Hill main entrance of the park.

Cllr Andrew Curtin, cabinet member for Culture, Towns and Communities, said: “We’re really excited at the possibility of working with heavy horses more here in Havering. This is a really innovative scheme that supports a great local business - and by doing so, we hope to further protect the environment and reduce our carbon footprint, as well as encourage even more diversity to the area for everyone to benefit from.”

The Suffolk Punch is well known for being the original work horse, bred in the 16th century for strength, but their presence dwindled over the centuries as machinery took over.

However, this technology is increasingly being shunned after use of heavy machinery and vehicles in woodland has caused significant damage.

If the trial, in association with the Forestry Commission, is successful, the service could be used in the borough over the next five years to manage woodland.

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