Work has started on a two year £2.6 million natural flood management project in West Yorkshire led by the National Trust to help protect homes and nurture wildlife devastated by the Boxing Day floods of 2015.
The aim is to reduce the risk of flooding to over 3,000 homes and businesses in Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Marsden and surrounding areas.
Taking learnings from the conservation charity’s success with a similar scheme at the Holnicote Estate in Somerset, this will be one of the biggest investments of its kind to date in England.
The work at Hardcastle Crags and Wessenden Valley, part of Marsden Moor, both cared for by the National Trust; and Gorpley Reservoir, looked after by Yorkshire Water and the Woodland Trust; will use a combination of natural interventions to slow the flow of water along the Colne and Calder river catchments.
With £1.3 million growth deal funding from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and £1.3 million either in funds or in-kind support from other partners including The Forestry Commission, Moors For The Future partnership, Environment Agency, Woodland Trust, Yorkshire Water, Calderdale Council and other community groups, plans include the planting of 151 hectares of new woodland at Gorpley Reservoir and in the Wessenden Valley, the restoration of 85 hectares of peat bogs, heath and Molinia (moor grass) and the construction of over 650 “leaky dams”.
Over 3,000 metres of fascines (bundles of brushwood) will also be dug in to help stabilise stream banks and slopes, and new areas of land will be fenced for sustainable grazing by sheep and cattle.
All partners have been working together as part of the White Rose Forest Partnership. New woodlands planted will help grow the White Rose Forest, part of the new Northern Forest.
Craig Best, countryside manager for the National Trust in West Yorkshire says:
“Traditional flood alleviation schemes have focused primarily on delivering hard infrastructures such as flood defence walls to protect the places where people live. However, there is increasing recognition of the role natural flood management can play to reduce the impacts of flooding on communities, while delivering key benefits for the natural environment.
“Although natural techniques are not considered to be the single solution to reducing flood risk they are increasingly recognised as playing a significant role alongside more traditional approaches.
“The combination of work we’re planning here of both new habitat creation and landscape restoration will, once things have become established, help absorb significant amounts of water to help slow the flow of water heading downstream towards towns and villages when we experience heavy rain.
“Wildlife we are hoping will benefit from the project include upland birds such as curlew and twite and areas for bog plants such as hare’s tail cottongrass and sphagnum to thrive.”