Horse power arrives in Stanmer Park

A team of heavy horses are the latest recruits to the council’s countryside team at Stanmer Park.

Led by Dan and Jess Brown, the Comptois horses will spend the next three weeks helping to clear sycamore and ash trees thinned out as part of the park’s Woodland Management Plan.

Horses have traditionally been used to move logs from woodland to avoid using heavy machinery and minimise damage to the other trees and the forest floor.

The selective thinning of the trees will make space for planting a range of species and allow younger trees to thrive.

Ash trees which are showing strong signs of Ash dieback, and are a threat to public safety, will be felled. This will create more space around healthy trees to give them a better chance of resisting the disease.

Protecting habitats

Experts have surveyed and marked trees where bats are likely to be roosting to avoid disturbing habitats. A tree-lined avenue at the lower path section will remain untouched until next October to check whether bats are using this as a feeding corridor.

The seasonal work, which is also carried out when dormice are hibernating, will start on 14 November in the area to the south of the walled garden and will take around three weeks. 

While work is in progress, some paths will be closed for public safety. These areas will be clearly marked.

Meet the horses

A ‘Meet the Horses' day is being held on 23 November, when visitors can find out about the work being done, the benefits it will bring to the woodland environment and see the horses in action.

The Stanmer Woodland Management Plan was approved by the Forestry Commission following citywide consultation earlier this year. The plan aims to:

  • maintain and preserve open access
  • build resilience against Ash Dieback and other diseases and ensure existing woodland cover is maintained
  • increase biodiversity and protect nationally and locally rare flora and fauna
  • produce coppice products, wood fuel and timber

Work carried out last year at Stanmer Park at the Upper Lodges, Watercatcher and Flint Heap has already helped to increase species diversity with a mixed planting of beech, oak, wild cherry, field maple and hazel.

New life 

Spring 2019 saw new life returned to the woodland floor, with plant seeds which had remained dormant due to lack of light becoming active again. The plantings are growing well and the coppice trees of mainly ash and sycamore are growing vigorously. 

The vigorous regrowth of sycamore demonstrates how this becomes dominant in the woodland.  This will be selectively cut back in the next year to enable the new mixed plantings to get a good head start.


If you're interested in helping with woodland work and monitoring wildlife and plants found in Stanmer, or other volunteering opportunities supported by the Stanmer Restoration Project, visit our Stanmer Park Restoration Project page.

You can also sign up for the project newsletter by emailing

More like this