Logging horse commutes to work aboard barge over loch to help restore woodland

Tarzan and his handler are helping to restore a remnant of Caledonian woodland and Scotland's precious rainforest.

Man and horse have united to restore a swathe of precious Highland Caledonian forest.

A unique barge named  Each-Uisge – which translates to ‘Water Horse ‘- has been built to reach the rare woodland, taking logging horse Tarzan to his place of work where he is helping restore nature on the shores of Loch Arkaig in Lochaber.

The 16-year-old French Comtrois is the muscle helping to restore a remnant of Caledonian woodland and Scotland’s rainforest in remote woodland known as The Gusach.

His talents are similar to that of a surgeon – in his case, carefully extracting tonnes of invasive non-native trees while averting the need for new forest tracks.

Tarzan is playing a large part in efforts to restore the ancient woodland

His handler, Simon Dakin of Blue Green Conservation, said: “Native tree cover, veteran trees, oaks and ancient woodland areas that surround old conifer plantations.

“So, instead of felling all those trees and putting a road in to get at it with more modern machinery we use horses to extract the timber through these areas and preserve the native trees.”

A blinkered post-war rush for self-sufficiency in timber left delicate eco-systems forgotten, as the Caledonian forest was invaded by non-native conifers.

Woodland Trust Scotland’s Henry Dobson, the Loch Arkaig pine forest estate manager, said:  “Unless we can allow it to recover quickly, so many of the different plants and animals that depend on it could disappear completely and here in the west of Scotland it’s not only the ancient Caledonian pinewoods but this woodland is also Scotland’s rainforest.

Tarzan helps extract tonnes of non-native trees while averting the need for felling to make new forest tracks

“So, with those two woodlands together, there’s such a host of really rare, sensitive plants and animals that can’t necessarily survive in little tiny fragments of woodland. It really needs to be big, healthy forest.”

The project has been almost a decade in the planning. It is expected to take five years to complete to help Scotland’s rainforest burst back into life.

A tiny but pro-active local community has played a huge supportive role, recently acquiring some nearby land to help further.

Angela Mercer of Arkaig Community Forest said: “We have built a venison larder and a tree nursery on there because there is a great need for trees of local provenance for replanting areas like this.

“So, what better than to gather the seeds from the trees which are still here and to grow these on to saplings that we can replant back into the area.”

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