The BBC's Matt Baker tries his hand at Horse Logging at Minnowburn, following a tutorial from Stephen Donaghy as part of BBC's Countryfile programme which will be broadcast on Sunday.
LOCAL people out and about at the National Trust site at Minnowburn near Shaws Bridge may have noticed some true 'horse power' in action recently as commercial horse logging has returned to Northern Ireland for the first time for many years.
This eco friendly and very traditional method of extracting timber has grown increasingly popular in England, Scotland and Wales in recent years; however it returned to Northern Ireland this week at the site in the Lagan Valley Regional Park. Noel Donaghy of Total Tree Care took the bold step of becoming the first horse logger in the region when he bought two Jutland horses 'Samson' and 'Goliath' and all the necessary rig, with the magnificent animals coming all the way from Denmark.
The BBC Countryfile team has also been out at Minnowburn filming and presenter Matt Baker had a go at horse logging himself, after a tutorial from Stephen Donaghy from Total Tree Care. The programme will be screened on Sunday (February 13).
So far Samson has been out on the job, he is driven using reins and voice control and looks really happy going about his work. When the National Trust Belfast team found out about Noel's venture, they were keen to lend some support and have become Noel's first customer. The horses are drawing thinned larch logs to the roadside.
The appearance of these mighty beasts has caused a stir with the local community with many people coming to have a look at these wonderful animals in action.
Supporters of the horse power say heavy machinery often disturbs drainage, damages flora, compacts the soil and may cause damage to surrounding trees. So this method of extraction is particularly appealing.
Added to that they say, the noise and fumes from machinery can make woodland operations pretty unattractive to be around. By contrast there is something magical about the sight of these chestnut beauties doing what they were bred to do.