Old-Fashioned Horse Power Moves Mighty Oaks!

Thursday 28th July 2016

Heavy horse power was brought in to move two giant oak trees at a woodland nature reserve near Guildford. The 200-year-old oaks, which were blown down in storms in March, are destined for use in the restoration of a local boardwalk.

Tooky flexed his muscles to shift two tonnes of solid English oak

Surrey Hills Horseman Daniel Brown and his comtois horse Tooky worked in perfect harmony as they tackled the removal job at Cucknell’s Wood – a Surrey Wildlife Trust site near Shamley Green, Guildford.

As a crowd of volunteers and locals looked on, Tooky flexed his muscles to shift two tonnes of solid English oak – the traditional way.

Trust Ranger Leo Jennings said horses had been chosen rather than heavy machinery, because of their minimal impact on the ancient woodland and ability to access tricky sites.

“The ideal solution for ancient woodland sites with soft soil is heavy horses,” he said. “These gentle giants can turn on the spot, they have an infallible traction control system, they can step over obstacles and they do not wheel-spin!

“Although they sometimes work more slowly than machinery, they leave barely any mark and this is vital to ensuring the structure of the ancient woodland soil is not destroyed and is a far more appropriate tool for a nature reserve. Sometimes the old ways are the best.”

The huge oaks will now be processed at the Trust’s own sawmill at Norbury Park, near Dorking, before being used to rebuild a rotting boardwalk at the Trust’s nature reserve on Chitty’s Common, near Guildford. 

“It’s really rewarding to see a fallen oak put to good use,” added Leo. “These trees, which have grown in a Surrey Wildlife Trust woodland, will be processed at our own sawmill at Norbury Park, then used to repair a boardwalk at one of our nearby nature reserves – it’s a fantastic example of sustainable forestry.

“We are committed to using our own timber wherever possible in preference to buying in, for reasons of timber miles, self-sufficiency and traceability - let alone cost! Oak is extremely durable, so perfect for use on the boardwalk, which should be enjoyed by local people for generations to come.”

The Chitty’s Common improvement works have been made possible with a grant of £12,000 from the Tesco supermarket’s ‘Bags of Help’ scheme. The main aim of the project is to rebuild the dilapidated boardwalk, which will give visitors much better access.

The scheme also includes some tree safety work and ditch management to alleviate local flooding, as well as the removal of non-indigenous species such as Japanese knotweed.

Further information about the Chitty’s Common nature reserve 

Further information about Norbury Park Sawmill 

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