The British Horse Loggers is a grouping of professional full and part time contractors and enthusiasts who work horses by choice in contemporary forestry. The BHL helps to keep alive a continuous tradition of skilled craft to the benefit of commercial, amenity and conservation woodland. Horses are used to extract the full range of timber produced in Britain, from coppice materials, thinnings and firewood, right up to sawlogs.
The group is enthusiastic and active, running a series of events each year all over the country. Our members come from the North of Scotland right down to Southern England and it is still possible to find a contractor working quietly away in your area.
We organise a series of ‘Progress Events’. We held three such events during 2003. At Erddig, a National Trust property near Wrexham in North Wales we explored how horse work can be integrated into a commercial site, working alongside conventional extraction systems, with horses skidding timber to a log chute and sky line. At Bellister Castle, another National Trust property in Northumberland, we learned about traditional ‘snigging’ using native ponies with chain gears and swingle trees. At Childer Wood in Herefordshire we held an ‘eclectic’ event with a large number of horses and a comprehensive range of traditional and modern equipment.
Our 2003 Annual Championship was alongside the Eastnor Castle Festival of Wood near Ledbury in Herefordshire and was blessed by good weather and a very good turnout. The winning teams of horse and handler showed an exemplary high standard and professionalism. Richard Branscombe from the Working Horse Trust came first with the considerable distinction of being the only person to have won twice with a different horse each time. It was a very close run thing. Danny McNeill only came second due to a bit of bad luck and was close to the lead all the way through the two days. A real nail biter (especially for me and the other Judges) and a great credit to Danny who was using a borrowed horse he had never worked before. Third place went to Jon West who is on a long term contract with the Forestry Commission at the Hafod Estate in West Wales.
The BHL relies heavily upon sponsorship for these events. It is no mean feat, nor is it cheap, to move horses and equipment around the country. The Championship is especially costly with up to 20 horse and handler teams taking part. As a specialist group of the Forestry Contracting Association the BHL is fortunate to have the backing of project funding which underwrites our activities.
We are immensely grateful to Woodland Heritage for being a major sponsor during 2003.
In 2002, I led a party to the Jura in eastern France where we met groups and individuals who work horses and I will be leading a similar study tour to Romania during 2004. We are hosting a reciprocal visit from Hippotese (a French group) and will be joining FECTU, a Europe-wide initiative to promote the use of working horses. I have also had a very successful four month student placement as part of an International Forestry Eco-systems Management Degree at the School of Applied Sciences, Eberswald. I will shortly be hosting a work experience placement for a German school student.
For more information about the BHL, our activities and the other groups mentioned above, visit the following web sites. My web site is www.heavyhorses.net, the BHL is britishhorseloggers.org, FECTU is www.fectu.org and Hippotese is hippotese.free.fr
Events during 2004 are already planned including a Progress Event in SW Scotland in March and the Championship which will be held at Houghall College, Durham on the weekend of May 15th and 16th.
If you are thinking about woodland management and how the extraction of the timber might be achieved, come along to an event and see what horses offer. I look forward to meeting you.
Chairman, British Horse Loggers