Neigh bother: Trust enlists help of horse to manage woodland
Ben the Clydesdale horse can be seen bracken beating in the grounds of Drum Castle.
By Ben Philip
The National Trust for Scotland has enlisted the help of a horse to help manage woodland at one of its properties.
In a scene from a bygone age, Ben the Clydesdale horse can be seen bracken beating in the grounds of Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire.
It is part of a conservation project to safeguard the ancient oak woodland for future generations.
The thickness of the vegetation is preventing the growth of new trees.
Through sheer horse power, Ben hauls a wooden sledge through overgrown areas, flattening the ferns without damaging the forest floor.
His light-touch approach is recognised as a low-impact method of conservation unlike the use of heavy machinery.
Judy Baxter, head ranger for the National Trust for Scotland, said: "This is magnificent woodland.
"But the oak trees are all of a fairly old age and there's not a lot of natural regeneration.
"What we're hoping to do by getting rid of the bracken by breaking it down is to open up the woodland floor and allow the baby oaks to get through."
Using horses in land management is a traditional rural skill dating back thousands of years.
It's currently enjoying resurgence and is now widely recognised as a sustainable tool.
James Falconer, from Grampian Horse Loggers, said: "Using a horse is really superb because after a few weeks you'll never know that I've been here.
"So for the flora, fauna and forest floor - it will remain undamaged having the horse in.
"Whereas track vehicles or other machinery will cause all sorts of damage."
He added: "Some of the bracken here is taller than me and when it's covering the forest floor, nothing grows.
"So by weakening the bracken and hopefully destroying it in certain areas we'll allow or enable the young oak trees to grow."