TRADITIONAL methods are being deployed to help an ancient woodland flourish.

Heavy horses are being used in a biodiversity pilot project to restore parts of a Site of Special Scientific Interest at a water treatment works in Hawkley.

Owned by South East Water, the land is being cleared of large mature conifer trees which have been blocking the light to the forest floor.

They will be replaced with 300 saplings, native to the surrounding woodland.

The team of horse-loggers has been pulling together to remove 30 large Douglas fir and Scots pine trees. It is hoped the work will encourage the return of bluebells, dog’s mercury and yellow archangel.

Alex Stephens, South East Water’s environmental performance officer, said: “There are a number of major benefits in using heavy horses to carry out this work instead of large machinery.

“The horses have less impact on the ground and don’t leave large ruts and damage to plants.

“They also help with soil carbon retention, leaving a healthier soil.”

As a water company, he said “protecting and conserving our natural environment” is “a high priority”.

“This is all part of our long-term commitment to the environment as one of ten biodiversity pilot projects we have been carrying out over the past five years as part of the Water Industry National Environment Programme,” he added.

Owner of the horses, Daniel Brown, said: “It is recognised that by using horses to pull cut timber out of our ancient forests and woodlands in this way plays a vital role in maintaining and managing their long term health.”