Heavy horse project takes off at runway woodland

STANSTED Airport has called on the services of Suffolk Punch Horses to help manage its ancient woodland, Eastend Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) just beyond the end of the runway.

Around 35 trees were earmarked for removal as part of a 10 year management plan developed with Natural England, and managed by consultant ecologists Penny Anderson Associates./

The airport turned to traditional methods, using the power of the Suffolk Punch Horse to remove felled wood in order to avoid damage that modern machinery might cause.

The airport’s head of planning and sustainability Dr Andy Jefferson said: “We work closely with Natural England to help meet their long-term objectives for this ancient woodland, and whilst we all agreed that trees needed to be removed to protect its future, we were reluctant to use modern machinery which would damage flourishing habitats and wildlife.

“Some may question why we would remove trees from a SSSI, but this work is vital to ensure sufficient natural sunlight reaches lower level plant life to protect the future growth of important rare flora, such as oxlip, and to allow the remaining trees to grow strong by reducing overcrowding.

“Seeing the Suffolk Punch at work transports you back in time, especially against the backdrop of a major international airport operation and I’m sure we’ll work with them again as part of our on-going management of this important woodland that we’re proud to manage and maintain.”

By the end of March, it is anticipated around 80 cubed metres of wood will be removed, all of which will be re-used, some as oak beams, some as mulch and some chipped to power Stansted’s 2MW biomass boiler, one of the largest in commercial use in the UK.

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Consultant ecologist Penny Anderson , who has closely managed biodiversity at the airport for more than 30 years, said: “This SSSI is of national importance and Stansted Airport has always taken its management very seriously, providing resources to effectively manage and balance the nature conservation and safety of aircraft operations.

“This latest management programme means that Stansted will now use some of the timber produced in Eastend Wood to power its biomass boiler, making it all fit together so neatly from an environmental perspective.”