Woodlands once covered hundreds of thousands of acres of land and provided us humans with shelter, areas for gathering and hunting food and natural products which, once converted, would help us in our everyday lives. As a valuable resource, woodlands were treated with respect and farmed to produce the charcoal and timber required to support communities. As such local communities managed the woodland in a sustainable way, ensuring that it catered for every generation.
With the development of the industrial revolution the value of timber diminished as oil became far more important. Cheaper alternatives such as plastics appeared and advances in communication and transportation allowed lower grade timber harvested abroad, to flood the UK market. That coupled with the need to feed and house the UK's growing population resulted in large areas of native woodland being felled. Woodlands in the landscape were now identified as recreational, conservation and unproductive areas and as such management activities slowed and in many cases ceased altogether. As woodlands disappeared, so too did its native species. This in turn created fragmented, isolated areas of land which were dominated by farmland, industry and housing. So conservation organisations such as the Wildlife Trust looked to acquire woodlands and return them to active management in a desperate attempt to save the species that were now in danger of extinction.
To read the remainder of Ian's article and to find out what benefits these Ardennes horses have on woodland management, please click here.
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