National Trust rangers are working with expert, local horse loggers to protect an Iron Age hill fort on the Killerton estate, near Exeter, as part of a major parkland restoration project.
Next week will see heavy horses start to sensitively extract timber from the historic site, known locally as ‘The Clump.’ Visitors will be able to see heritage conservation in action on an open day to the forestry site on Saturday 5th November, 10am ‘til 3pm.
‘The Clump’ refers to the group of 150 year old beech trees which were planted on top of the Iron Age hill fort behind Killerton House, when Killerton’s 18th century parkland was laid out by John Veitch. In order to protect both the hill fort and the fantastic trees, it is necessary to reduce the number of trees.
The gradual selective thinning of trees from the hill fort is being phased over the next 10 years. The work will prevent failing roots from disturbing the archaeology of the ancient hill fort and give the remaining and strongest trees enough room to create sturdier foundations for themselves.
The protection of scheduled monuments such as the Iron Age hill fort is vital to preserving the heritage of Killerton for future generations. Heavy horses such as Will Hampton’s Comtois and Ardenne breeds are perfectly suited to working on hilly and protected sites.
Will Hampton from Dartmoor Horse Loggers explains; “The horses offer an efficient, flexible approach to timber extraction. We marry traditional woodland management with modern equipment such as pole arches to ensure minimal damage to sensitive sites just like Killerton”.
These efforts form part of the ‘Bringing Killerton Park to life’ project, launched by the National Trust in September 2015 to restore and enhance the ecological and historical importance of Killerton’s parkland. To date, the project has already resulted in Dolbury hill fort being removed from the Heritage at Risk register.
Fi Hailstone, Project Coordinator, says; “We are really proud of what we have achieved so far in the parkland, especially the work on Scheduled Monuments. The Clump is a favourite spot for many at Killerton. There is something magical about seeing the powerful horses work in such a historical place. I hope it helps people to understand just how special the it is”
The National Trust welcomes visitors to see the horses in action on Saturday 5th November, from 10am to 3pm. There is no additional charge for this event, normal admission fees apply.
Killerton’s shop and café is open daily 11am-4pm. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/killerton