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Meet the horse clearing the way for walkers and visitors to Guisborough Forest

PUBLISHED: 12:39 29 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:34 20 February 2013

Meet the horse clearing the way for walkers and visitors to Guisborough Forest

Meet the horse clearing the way for walkers and visitors to Guisborough Forest

A coloured cob called Blue is carving a new career as a traditional logging horse<br/>Photographs by Tony Bartholomew

Chris Wadsworth and his 11-year-old heavy horse Blue have been recruited by the Forestry Commission to help clear the way for walkers and visitors to a North York Moors woodland.

The project will see about 200 tonnes of sycamore removed to open up part of the scenic Guisborough Forest to allow other native tree species like oak to grow and improve recreational access to the forests popular keep-fit trail.

Horse logging dates back many centuries and was once the way all timber was removed from woodlands before the advent of tractors and caterpillar-tracked forwarders. But it still has major future as horses are more manoeuvrable than any machine and also tread lightly on sensitive and steep terrain.

Chris Wadsworth is one of the UKs top loggers and is teaching Blue the ropes. He said: She has a very nice temperament and to say this is the first job she has done as a logger she is doing remarkably well. It takes some time to train a horse, but Ive got high hopes Blue will cut the mustard as a first class logger.

Blues previous career has been variously spent hauling scrap carts, pulling a traditional Gypsy caravan and in a riding school. Her logging career could easy extend go on for another 10 years.

Guisborough Forest and Walkway, managed by the Forestry Commission and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, is one of the Norths most popular woods. The logging is proving a big attraction for visitors, but it has a serous purpose, said the Forestry Commissions Ian Blair.

Access to this part of the forest is quite difficult and we have a power line running over the forest canopy all of which points to the use of a horse rather than machine. Timber harvested will be used for firewood to meet the soaring local demand for green energy. Its a delight to see a logging horse back in the wood the partnership between man and beast is thrilling to see.

Demand for timber is increasing especially firewood and the fact that forest chiefs say 50 per cent of local woodlands could be under managed means that horse logging could have a bright future. To ensure theres a new generation of loggers keep the old skills alive, Chris Wadsworth has been helping train an apprentice under a ground-breaking three year scheme with the British Horse Loggers Trust.

Work at Guisborough will continue until the New Year and the Trim Trail will be off limits until the project is completed.

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