It is a great pleasure for me that so many of you have been able to give up your very precious time to come down to these woods today to have a look at the horse logging side of life. As some of you may realise, I have become Patron of the British Horse Logging Association, of which I’m enormously proud.
Last year, while in The Duchy woods in Herefordshire, I thought that it might be an idea to see if we could do a “Seeing Is Believing” exercise in order to encourage awareness of what the horse loggers are able to do, and what they can contribute in today’s world. I think too often there is a misconception and misunderstanding of what the horse loggers can achieve and I feel very strongly that they have an enormous potential role to play and are not just merely a relic from the past.
I’m very proud of being a rather amateur hedge layer myself. I’m also Patron of the National Hedge Laying Society which I’m very proud of indeed, and the Dry Stone Walling Association. All these people matter enormously, both in helping to keep the countryside together and also in providing the kind of landscape which so many visitors and people expect, become used to and want to see. It seems to me to be absolutely crucial to support and encourage all those remarkable craftsmen and craftswomen who help to make the countryside what it is. They are the hidden invisible element behind what people see, as you know it doesn’t all happen by accident.
So I feel very strongly that it’s worth looking at the kind of skills that the horse loggers have and what they can contribute in terms of woodland management. I hope perhaps some of you might have seen today that they have a real relevance, particularly on the steeper sites and ones that are particularly sensitive, such as the wetter sites and the ones where there are more visitors. They also fit so well, it always seems to me, into the whole process of conservation and woodland management. I hope you have seen in the demonstrations today what they’re capable of.
Within the Duchy of Cornwall we are working very closely with organisations on continuous cover, something which I have been encouraging the Duchy to work on. I’m enormously grateful to Geraint Richards, the Head Forester for the Duchy of Cornwall, who has been so marvellous in helping to encourage not only the continuous cover operation, which he puts into practise so brilliantly, but also the use of horses. There are other countries, particularly on the continent, which have developed innovative ways of using horses, of using innovative equipment and machinery, with the latest improved designs. Scandinavia, Canada and Germany have all made great strides in horse logging. It seems to me there is no reason why we couldn’t see a similar renaissance in this country, that is what I am rather hoping to see in my role as Patron of the British Horse Logging Association.
I hope, Ladies and Gentlemen, if nothing else you might go away and just think about the possibilities of what you could do. Can I also say before I finish that I’m thrilled that the British Horse Logging Association have managed to establish a charitable trust, and through it a three year apprenticeship scheme. It is terrific and is just what is needed. And of course what is also needed is more opportunities for the Horse Loggers to carry out work on different people’s projects.
As I say, we’ve been really lucky today to see real craftsmen at work. Clearly the survival of these skills is an essential requirement for the future wellbeing of our rural communities, which is another reason why in a moment I’m much looking forward to meeting the winners of this year’s and last year’s Duke of Cornwall Award at the Royal Cornwall Show, the hedgelayer and the Master Thatcher. Encouraging those crafts too is something else I mind about enormously.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope it has given you a little bit of food for thought. Perhaps we might see, here and there, a few experiments being made with horse logging in some of the woodlands that some of you manage. I’d like to thank you very much for coming.