Heavy horse Roy helps deliver natural flood management scheme in Essex

A new natural flood management scheme at an Essex country park is being delivered with the help of a four-legged friend – Roy, a working heavy horse.

Roy was brought in by project partners the Environment Agency and Essex County Council as part of an innovative approach to flood protection at Thorndon Country Park, near Brentwood.

The project involves installing ‘leaky dams’ on two tributaries upstream of Old Hall Pond, and one watercourse downstream of the pond.

‘Leaky dams’ are a form of Natural Flood Management (NFM) which use locally sourced materials to build leaky wooden dams across watercourses.

These will help to slow the flow of water in times of heavy rain and reduce surface water flood risk to residential properties downstream in West Horndon.

Thorndon Country Park is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) woodland area with protected trees and listed parkland.

In order to protect this environment, Roy is being used to move the timber into place instead of heavy machinery.

The project is being delivered by Essex County Council’s Flood & Water Management team, with funding provided by the Environment Agency through the Anglian Eastern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC).

The Environment Agency has also helped with the design of the scheme and will be involved in monitoring the effectiveness going forward, while the council’s Place Services team provided arboricultural, ecological and historic advice.

Matt Butcher, project lead and Environment Manager for the Environment Agency in Essex, said: “This innovative project shows how possible it is to introduce effective flood management measures in a sustainable way at the heart of a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

“Natural flood management not only reduces flood risk it can also achieve multiple benefits for people and wildlife, helping restore habitats, improve water quality and helping make catchments more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

Essex County Councillor Simon Walsh, who represents ECC on the RFCC and has championed the project from the start, said: “With a history of flooding downstream in West Horndon and around the A127, the dams will play an important role in helping reduce flood risk in these areas.

“We’re delighted to see work start on this partnership project, and hope to see more natural flood management schemes delivered across Essex in the future.”

Essex County Council’s lead engineer, Jo Ludlow, said “This is a really exciting opportunity to use traditional methods to build natural leaky dams in Thorndon Country Park.

“By using Natural Flood Management techniques, we can not only reduce flood risk downstream, but also improve water quality and create wetland habitats to improve biodiversity.”

As well as reducing flood risk, the scheme will also improve water quality in Old Hall Pond.

Mick Ferris

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