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NEWS RELEASE No: 1533519 MARCH 2012

Forest chiefs turn to horse sense to boost dormice

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Horse Logger Dave Watlin and Hector pulling timber in the old fashioned way to help rare Dormice in Chambers Farm Wood, Lincolnshire

A gentle giant is doing his bit to help Lincolnshire’s rarest mammal.

Horse logger Dave Watlin, 57, from Sixhills,  near Market Rasen, and Hector, his six year old Dutch Draught – a breed of heavy horse - have been recruited by the Forestry Commission to help revive coppicing in a key area of 360 hectare (900 acre) Chambers Farm Wood, near Wragby.

The beauty-spot is the only known haven in Lincolnshire for dormice, which were re-introduced here in 2002 as part of an ambitious conservation project.

Forest chiefs reported last year that numbers were soaring, with over 70 adults, juveniles and babies being recorded in three Autumn checks by rangers and local volunteers.

Now Mr Watlin, his son Michael, 37, and Hector are hard at work making the environment even better for the little critters by coppicing two acres of woodland. 

Wally Grice, Forestry Commission Forester, said:

“Coppicing involves cutting back trees to their stumps and has been practiced in Lincolnshire for hundreds of years. It promotes vigorous re-growth and helps maintain a healthy supply of dormice foodstuffs such as hazelnuts.  It will also deliver plenty of benefits for other wildlife too.”

Hector will haul out five tonnes timber, most of which will be used locally for firewood.  Mr Watlin explained:

“Horses are kinder to the ground than a machine would be so given the sensitive terrain it makes sense to use them. I love working with horses, they have so much personality.  The Dutch Draught is the perfect breed for this kind of work, as they are generally a bit smaller than a Shire horse meaning they are better in tight spaces.”

Much of Chambers is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the wood forms part of the Bardney Limewoods National Nature Reserve. The Forestry Commission is committed to creating and broadening habitats in the spectacular wood.

Note to Editor

  1. The Chambers Farm Wood dormice project was a pioneering scheme by the Forestry Commission, Mammals Trust UK, Natural England and Royal Holloway, University of London.  Local conservationists and volunteers are also playing a key role in securing the return of the once extinct creature.

  2. The head and body of a dormouse can  be up to 85 mm long and they also have a thick bushy tail.  The creature is nocturnal and hibernates from October to April. They are also good climbers and spend most of their time in the tree canopy. One or two litters are born each year.  They are protected by law and may not be killed, injured, disturbed in their nests, collected, trapped or sold except under licence. A loss of suitable habitat in Britain has led to a steep decline in their numbers.

  3. Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive woodlands.  To find out more about the region’s woods log-on to

 Media calls to Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038.