On an early summer morning in 2015, I took Hammerton’s ferry across the Thames, walked past Ham House and was transported back in time to rural England.
There in the dappled sunlight were two mighty Shire horses pulling a rattling grass mower over the verges of Ham Avenues. Behind them a small team of volunteers swept up the cuttings into neat piles using wooden rakes.
I was there by kind permission from Operation Centaur, an organization that promotes the relevance of the horse as a contemporary working animal in urban communities. This takes the form of Conservation and Heritage projects such as the one I was photographing but also for well-being interventions and Community Engagement Programmes.
Sadly the Shire, one of the UK’s best-loved breeds, is in decline. Once a common sight working in fields, machines have taken away their role. You now only see them used in ploughing contests at country fairs.
Operation Centaur is trying to change this by showing that these gentle giants still have a place in the modern world.