Suffolk Punch horse helps to create natural flood defence in Thaxted

PUBLISHED: 10:09 01 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:54 01 March 2017

The Suffolk Punch horse with Matt Waller of Hawthorn Heavy Horses and councillors Simon Walsh from Thaxted and Susan Barker from Dunmow. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

The Suffolk Punch horse with Matt Waller of Hawthorn Heavy Horses and councillors Simon Walsh from Thaxted and Susan Barker from Dunmow. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Saffron Photo 2017

Rare breed Suffolk Punch horses are being used to create a natural flood defence, a series of "leaky dams" made out of felled trees, in Thaxted.

Suffolk Punch horse Easton Roy with Matt Waller from Hawthorn Heavy Horses. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTOSuffolk Punch horse Easton Roy with Matt Waller from Hawthorn Heavy Horses. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

This is the first project of its kind in Essex. It aims to stop surface water flooding homes while at the same time improving wildlife habitats.

Felled trees and other woody debris will be pinned into the river bank allowing water to flow freely when levels are normal. In times of flooding, the flow of water is slowed, reducing pressure on the dam by still allowing water through. Leaky dams also prevent flood water from washing away soil and silt from eroded river banks.

On Tuesday (February 28) the first phase of the scheme saw a Suffolk Punch horse, a rare breed of heavy horse traditionally used in logging and the transportation of wood products, taking felled trees from Garnetts Wood, Dunmow, in preparation for the construction this month.

The felled timber and woody debris has been sustainably harvested from Essex County Council’s own estate as part of the Essex Woodland Project.

Suffolk Punch horse Easton Roy with Matt Waller from Hawthorn Heavy Horses. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTOSuffolk Punch horse Easton Roy with Matt Waller from Hawthorn Heavy Horses. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

Councillor Simon Walsh, Cabinet Member for Environment and Waste, said: “Not only will leaky dams provide a sustainable solution to flood issues, they will also help improve valuable wildlife habitats.”

Matt Butcher, from the Environment Agency said: “Using sustainably produced, local timber to create leaky dams and other semi-natural features is a great way to reduce flood risk and enhance the environment. Involving these beautiful horses to further reduce the environmental impact of the scheme is fantastic and shows that traditional methods are sometimes still the best.”

Construction work on the dams will cost £10,000, with an additional £75,000 for civil engineering work in a nearby lane.

A similar Slow the flow project in North Yorkshire saw the local flood risk reduced by 15-20 per cent. Essex County Council is hoping to replicate this success in Thaxted.

Easton Roy the Suffolk Punch horse pulling logs, guided by Matt Waller of Hawthorn Heavy Horses. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTOEaston Roy the Suffolk Punch horse pulling logs, guided by Matt Waller of Hawthorn Heavy Horses. Picture: SAFFRON PHOTO

To find out about how a community can access funds to prevent flooding, see: http://www.essex.gov.uk/Environment%20Planning/Environment/local-environment/flooding/Grants/Pages/Property-Level-Protection.aspx or call 0844 798 1261

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