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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Horsepower harnessed
Welshbury Hill
Welshbury Hill Fort is an important historical site
Horses are to be used to haul logs from a forest to help protect an ancient hill fort.

The animals' hooves are considered much less likely to damage the historic monument than heavy machinery.

Forest Enterprise is to use horsepower at Welshbury Hill Fort near Littledean, Gloucestershire, where a number of lime trees need to be removed.

The horses will pull the felled trees from the Iron Age site to a road where they can be collected by lorry.

Battle scene

Welshbury Hill Fort is reputed to be the place where the Celtic Dobunni tribe staged its last battle against the Romans after a long-running guerrilla war.

It is thought to date back to 1600 BC.

Hundreds of years ago the area was planted with lime trees, which would have been coppiced.

The poles were then used for building work.

Foresters have to manage the site carefully because of its archaeological importance and because it is one of the higher points in the Forest of Dean.

They carry out regular checks to see which lime trees are likely to be blown over in strong winds.

Heavy machinery

The most vulnerable trees now need to be removed to stop them falling and tearing out the earth banks of the hill fort.

Most logging in the forest is commercial and is done with heavy machinery.

But the tractor wheels can dig deep into the ground.

The work at Welshbury is being treated as special case.

Jeremy Jissop, Forest Enterprise's district forester, environment, said: "You can only use a horse when the economics are not particularly important, such as when you are doing it for archaeological or conservation reasons."

Forest Enterprise, an agency of the Forestry Commission which manages the UK's forests, hopes the felled lime trees will be used commercially, rather than being burnt as fire wood.

See also:

22 Jun 01 | UK
New hope for Forest people
28 Jul 00 | Wales
Iron Age fort unearthed
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