MAN and horse have united to restore a swathe of precious Highland Caledonian forest.

A unique barge named Each-Uisge – which translates to Water Horse – has been built to reach the rare woodland, taking logging horse Tarzan to his place of work where he is helping restore nature on the shores of Loch Arkaig in Lochaber.

The 16-year-old French Comtrois is the muscle helping to restore a remnant of Caledonian woodland and Scotland’s rainforest in remote woodland known as The Gusach.

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His talents are similar to that of a surgeon – in his case, carefully extracting tonnes of non-native trees while averting the need for new forest tracks. A total of 70,000 tonnes of mainly Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine is being removed over five years.

%image('17287713', type="article-full", alt="The barge can also transport a John Deere 1210G ")

Estate manager, Henry Dobson of Woodland Trust Scotland, said: “It has taken years of planning and preparation to get our barging scheme up and running, so it is very exciting to see the first loads of timber coming off. 

"For the last two winters, we have successfully been removing non-native timber along a forest track from the easier to reach parts of the forest.

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"But the remoteness of The Gusach has been a huge challenge to overcome. Building a track in would have destroyed a lot of the special habitats we are here to restore in the first place. So, we decided that the only acceptable route was over the loch itself.” 

The modular barge has been custom-built so that a John Deere 1210G – supplied by Creel Maritime – can drive onto its deck to be ferried across the loch to the roadside on the opposite bank. The deployment of such a barge is thought to be a UK first for timber transport over freshwater. 

%image('17287719', type="article-full", alt="Tarzan is helping to extract timber from the forest ")

Woodland Trust Scotland’s ambition is to ultimately power it on an EV charger like an electric car – which will be a world first. 
Woodland Trust Scotland contracts Tarzan and his handler Simon Daken of Blue Green Conservation as part of the timber extraction effort at Loch Arkaig. Modern harvesting machinery is also deployed, but a horse is still best in some situations – where the ground is particularly steep or there are sensitive natural features. 
For the next few weeks Tarzan and Simon will take the barge in to The Gusach on Monday mornings, work and camp through the week before barging out again on Fridays. 

Three forestry workers will also be living and working in The Gusach over winter, operating two harvesting machines and the forwarder. 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.  
Henry added: “We are intervening to kick-start all the natural processes of the forest back up and running again. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to step back, do very little and let the forest get on with things naturally.”