This week a heavy horse has started to haul timber from the woodland around Upperton Weir. The flowing flaxen mane and stocky chestnut body are typical of the Comtois breed of French draft horses and young Beano is continuing his first full working season with a week here at Fingle Woods. His youthful enthusiasm for the job is clear and his eagerness to get on with moving timber requires firm discipline from his handler.
After a bucket of oats for breakfast the handsome horse was soon equipped with his “swingletree” harness to draw bundles of conifer stems to the trackside. The timber is being moved out of the woodland area where the National Trust volunteers had been felling trees to open up the habitat in this riverside plot. These low impact methods of thinning trees leave the ground less disturbed, allowing the wild plants to regenerate and minimising disturbance to other wildlife. There are dormice hibernating in this area and an inspection of possible nesting sites was carried out before the extraction work started to avoid waking them up – or worse!
Beano’s work has been made easier by the Woodland Trust volunteers’ earlier work on building a wooden bridge over a drainage ditch (see blog from 5th December). While he stopped for lunch, the human members of the team continued to measure and cut the logs ready for stacking and final extraction by haulage vehicles.
As the week progresses you will be able to visit the Upperton Weir area and talk to Will and Alex about how Beano is getting on and the other work they do with heavy horses. The team will be on site until Saturday when you can also join in the work with the volunteer team. The Exeter Trials will also be taking place on Saturday which is a great opportunity to see some classic cars put through their paces on the muddy tracks of Fingle Woods.
by Matt Parkins