Working with horses for a biodiverse future

9 May 2019

Written by: Lambeth Council

Focus on Clapham

Horses from Operation Centaur have returned to Lambeth to help create environmentally friendly mini-meadows on Clapham Common.

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Working with horses for a biodiverse future

Heavy horses from Operation Centaur have been turning the soil and turning heads in Lambeth.

Horses on the roundabout

This time, they’ve broken up ground on the roundabout near Clapham South tube so we can sow native wildflower seed, creating new ‘mini-meadow’ foraging and feeding opportunities for pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, all of which are in serious decline across London. Horses Murdoch and Joey then press the seed into the ground to reduce losses from birds and wind.

Word from the Cabinet

Cllr Sonia Winfred, Cabinet member for Equalities and Culture, said: “We ‘ve had fantastic support from Clapham Common Management Advisory Committee, who we work with to help manage the Common. We’ve had a very positive public response to the horses on Clapham – the Operation Centaur staff have had nothing but praise, and lots of amazed and happy people passing by saying how lovely it looks and far better than using tractors.”

Fuel and emissions

In terms of emissions we’re very confident we’ll see a reduction by using horses instead of tractors. Tractors use diesel and emit large amounts of carbon dioxide (C02), nitrogen oxides and particulates, especially when ploughing deep into hard soils. With the horses, the only emissions are rom the van to and from Richmond Park, but we’ve assessed it and the net use of fuel is far lower than using tractors. We’ve saved 3-4 days of a 3 litre diesel tractor running for 4 hours per day The horses are fuelled by hay, carrots and molasses. We also get their manure, which is good for the soil.

For more information

  • Photos by Rob Williamson and videos posted by Simon Millson are just part of the support and encouragement for this environmental initiative from the Clapham Common Management Advisory Committee (CCMAC) For more photos of the horses at work on Clapham Common follow CCMAC on twitter or Instagram
  • For more about the other work CCMAC does to upkeep and improve Clapham Common see their information pages
  • For more about Lambeth Council’s Green Flag-winning parks and the Parks teams strategy and work to maintain and develop them for vistors and residents, see their information pages
  • For more about the working horses from Operation Centaur, see their information pages. Operation Centaur came to Brockwell Park in March, converting an old hard surface pitch into a new wildflower meadow, with funding from SUEZ Environmental Trust. In the autumn they’ll come back to Ruskin Park to prepare the ground for a project with Brixton Windmill helping raise awareness of where bread comes from and to protect traditional food plants.