THE SUFFOLK Punch Trust has launched a campaign to raise 3.6m in a bid to safeguard and expand its stud of horses at Hollesley Bay in Suffolk.

The site is the oldest and largest stud of this rare breed of heavy working horse, of which only around 300 remain, making it rarer than the Giant Panda.

The Trust aims to buy the horses and a 77ha (190 acre) farm from the Prison Service, which has run it since 1938. It plans to expand the stud, increase public access, open a restaurant, shop and museum, plus provide extra education facilities for more school visits.

The enterprise will be run in conjunction with the Prison Service, allowing prisoners to continue working with the horses. This is, says the Trust, “an important factor in successful rehabilitation” over the years.

“This is a once-in-lifetime opportunity,” says farmer and broadcaster Paul Heiney who launched the public appeal. “It will become a huge asset to the breed and to breeders.”