Country Ways Combat the Bracken
Visitors might have spotted this pair in the woodlands. They are not there just as an attraction: they are working horses carrying much-needed work to help us further restore this incredible estate.
Bracken is such an invasive species that it can quickly take hold and diminish valuable grazing land or impair woodland regeneration. Various methods have been tried in the UK; from cutting to poisoning with chemicals flown in by plane. The only way to successfully combat bracken is to weaken the rhizomes (creeping stems lying under the soil). Cutting can stimulate growth and so can exacerbate the problem.
Horse-drawn bracken bashing is extremely effective: low-impact, avoiding chemicals, causing no damage to the surrounding environment. Working horses use a roller to bruise the stems and knock the plant flat to the ground. It slowly 'bleeds' to death and is substantially knocked back. Depending on how vigorous the plant was and how dense the growth is, the bracken can be eradicated by one or two further treatments.
This can either be in the same season if the initial work is done early enough or in the following season. If this is accompanied by a suitable management regime, such as grazing, then the bracken can be kept at bay. In woodlands or areas of natural regeneration, tree saplings are not affected by the roller, neither are other ferns. All of these 'pop' back up again after the roller has moved on.