How 'Tarzan' the logging horse is helping to restore Scotland's ancient rainforest

In a remote area of the Scottish Highlands one man and his horse are helping to restore native pine trees to Scotland's ancient rainforest, as ITV News Scotland Reporter Louise Scott explains

The newest form of timber transport has teamed up with the oldest, in a bid to restore a spectacular remnant of Caledonian pinewood and Scotland's rainforest.

Logging horse Tarzan is commuting to work on a new barge, as the forest site is on the shores of Loch Arkaig.

This is allowing timber to be removed from a very remote area of the Scottish Highlands, which has no road access. 

The Pine Forest contains rare fragments of ancient Caledonian pinewood and Scotland's rainforest.

Much of Scotland's Caledonian Forest is no longer covered by native pine trees. Credit: ITV News

Back in the 1960s it was planted through with non-native conifers, after demand for timber soared.

Now mature, these trees are crowding out the remaining pines and other native trees.  

Tree feller Simon Dakin has been working with horse Tarzan for eight years now.

Explaining the horse logging process, he told ITV News: "It does take a lot longer, it's quite labour intensive.

"But compared to modern machinery which is much faster, our work is less damaging to the ground. You can see the environmental benefits.

"We need very little infrastructure to work a forest with the horse and a lot less damage to the ecological features that we're trying to restore."

Simon Dakin explained that the work is 'less damaging to the ground'. Credit: ITV News

Felling on the site is taking place over winter to avoid disturbing nesting birds and other wildlife, during the breeding season.

The forest is home to native species, including red deer, ospreys, sea eagles, pine martens and red squirrels.

But the project is hoping to reinvigorate Scotland's natural rainforest.

Estate Manager Henry Dobson, of Woodland Trust Scotland, said: "As soon as we move these spruce trees it will be able to regenerate back, the rainforest will spring back to life.

"It's just as wet here as the Amazon jungle, it's maybe not quite so warm but the key thing is the rain.

"So some of the plants that are incredibly rare here, are also found in the Amazon."

Felling on the site is taking place over winter. Credit: ITV News

A total of 70,000 tonnes of mainly Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine is being removed over five years so that the remaining native trees can reclaim the site with their offspring.

The local group Arkaig Community Forest got involved in the land, alongside the Woodland Trust, to ensure this regeneration would take place.

Group member Angela Mercer said "It's crucial to climate change because the rainforest and the Caledonian Pinewood are far more biodiverse than just a conifer plantation and that's what we need in order to secure more carbon.

"The people around here are very passionate about the environment and that's how it got started."

The deployment of the barge for timber transport over freshwater is thought to be a UK first.

The Woodland Trust's ambition is to have the world's first electric charged timber transportation vessel.

This scheme is being watched closely by the wider forestry sector.

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