Horse power has been the order of the day at a country park which is using the "magnificent animals" to remove wood.

Heavy horses, Rita, a Comtois and Ed, a piebald Cob, have been used to haul timber away from the Horton Country Park Local Nature Reserve, following tree thinning in Pond Wood.

This is the first time horses have been used in the woodland since it was formed in 1974 and possibly since the 1940s.

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An Epsom Council spokesman said the very wet ground conditions of late have been the preferred option.

That is because of the need to minimise damage to ground flora in the ancient woodland, meant that horses, which tend to be much less damaging than a wheeled or even tracked vehicle.

Councillor Jan Mason, chairwoman of the leisure committee, said: "It’s thrilling to have these magnificent animals working in this ancient woodland, somehow it just feels right.

"Using the horses was a trial and we may go on to use horses in other woods as well, as our woodland management work is usually quite small scale which means the horses are a viable option cost wise."

All of the council’s woodland work for nature conservation is carried out either by volunteers, or specialist contractors, and includes coppicing, coppice restoration, planting and thinning to improve ground flora and the health of the remaining trees.

The wood from felled trees helps offset the cost of the felling.