Horseloggers clear Borders downhill track

Forestry Commission Scotland called in horsepower to help restore an ancient woodland near Innerleithen last week.

Traquair horseloggers Caitlin Erskine and her cob Angel finished a week’s work last Friday, clearing felled timber from part of Elibank and Traquair Forest.

The duo were called in to minimise damage to native tree saplings, popular mountain bike trails and the surrounding ground.

Local contractors 4Seasons Forestry had earlier selectively felled non-native conifers in the area, which has a mix of mature conifers and native broadleaf trees including ash, oak and sycamore. Forestry Commission conservation ranger Charles Cuthbert said: “The site is an ancient woodland with a good range of broadleaf seedlings that will grow into the forests of the future. Ancient woodland sites are few and far between and we have a duty of care to do what we can to help sensitively restore them for generations to come.

“Removing the conifers is a great start and getting Angel in to help means that disturbance of the small seedlings and other ground flora that form part of the historic Borders ecology will be kept to an absolute minimum.”

Caitlin and her father, Rab, set up Homestead Horselogging with the 13-year-old cob, Angel more than two years ago.

The Erskines have had the 14.2hh piebald since she was two and a half and the family pony took to the logging work with pleasure.

The trio have appeared in BBC2’s Landward programme and have been filmed by impressionist ­Rory Bremner for a documentary scheduled for screening this year.

The team was also part of a Forestry Commission Scotland exhibition in Edinburgh and put on a demonstration at last year’s Borders Festival of the Horse, at which they will be appearing again this year.

Last winter, they cleared Walkerburn’s new allotments site. And last year Caitlin and Angel also spent nearly three months clearing windblown trees in Beecraigs Country Park, Linlithgow.

Caitlin said: “We knew the work was out there and it was just a case of waiting for it to come in. I was lucky enough to do that because I was still at home and I had a part-time job [working in a kennels]. Work has definitely picked up this year.”

Concerning the latest job, Charles said: “We’ve generally had a very positive response from members of the public who have been very understanding about the need for us to close short sections of public road and mountain bike trail while the work is going on.

“Using the horse will mean far fewer problems for future use of the hillside – both for the public and the foresters – and will deliver long-term benefits for the ancient woodlands.”

Caitlin and Angel also have with them the one-year-old guard dog and pet, Nushba, a Labrador cross German shepherd “I got her for working because she barks if someone comes on to the site who I