Natural Flood Management in the Wyre Catchment – video transcript

Natural Course – an innovative approach to improve and protect the water environment in Northwest England.

Dan Turner, Land Management and Markets, The Rivers Trust

Natural Course is a European LIFE IP Project which is focussing on water management in the north west of England.  And this is a unique collaboration between the private, public and third sector.

One of the strategic aims of Natural Course is natural flood management (NFM), and natural flood management is a nature-based solutions approach to tackling flood risk by slowing, intercepting and storing water in our landscapes to reduce downstream flood risk to communities.

Through Natural Course we’ve been on a journey with natural flood management.  Right at the start we did a lot of modelling and research to understand its effectiveness at reducing flood risk.  We’ve gone on to implement many measures across our landscapes and we’ve continued to monitor and evaluate.

But the biggest barrier to delivering NFM and nature-based solutions at scale, is finance.  So the Wyre NFM Investment Readiness project was a really good example of how we brought together various stakeholders through a transactional model and looked at accelerating investment into nature-based solutions (NBS) and natural flood management at scale.


Natural Flood Management in the Wyre Catchment

Tom Myerscough, General Manager, Wyre Rivers Trust.

We’re in the Wyre catchment in North West Lancashire, situated between the Lune and Ribble catchments, and the Wyre flows from Abbeystead right down to Fleetwood which is the southern point of Morecambe Bay.

The catchment has suffered significant flooding over the last 100 years really, Churchtown bore the brunt of it in recent years.  So the community impacts are obviously flooded homes, ruined livelihoods – things like that, which is obviously incredibly sad for those people who have worked very hard for their entire lives to build those homes and communities.

So we know we can use nature to help prevent flooding.  It has been done across the globe, not so much in the UK, but we’re hoping to change that here. We can use things like leaky barrier, bunded hedges, ponds to store water during periods of high rainfall and high flow.  And we store that water for 18 to 24 hours to allow the flood peak to pass through, and then the water is then released at a more appropriate time.

So you can see a pond behind me here, so if we can situate a pond at the base of a little catchment, a really tiny catchment so it will hold water at low flow periods for the benefit of biodiversity.  And then, when we have periods of high rainfall events, it will gather more water and hold that again for a certain amount of time, and then release it.

Another technique is woodland creation, we can create large amounts of woodland across any given catchment.  But the key is to create that woodland in the right place.  Woodland can have a lot of positive impacts for nature – it can also have a lot of negative impacts on other species, so we do things very carefully here, and the trees are very good at intercepting rainfall, it allows percolation of the into the soil, and a mature tree can absorb up to seventy litres of water a day from the ground, which is obviously very beneficial when you can plant trees in large numbers.

To deliver all of this work we rely heavily on volunteers, and a real benefit of working within the charitable sector is that we can call on this time from communities in the catchment who will come out and plant trees and install leaky dams and do all that good work.

Mike, Volunteer.

I’m retired and wanted to fill my time with something useful.  And I like being out and about and doing something for the environment.  So it’s a win win I think.

Jane, Volunteer.

Well, it gets you out in the fresh air.  It’s interesting, you meet lots of interesting people.  Last time I was out, the group planted 500 trees. Not sure how many we’re doing today!

Tom Myerscough, General Manager, Wyre Rivers Trust.

We need to combine natural flood management with traditional solutions.  So, where we have hard engineered solutions like flood walls and flood banks and things like that, we can augment it with natural flood management in the upper catchment so we can store water further away from the communities, and then at source the communities can be protected and it will reduce the pressure on those interventions that are made by the Environment Agency, and make sure they are fit for purpose for longer.

So key lessons really are early engagement with your local community.  Whether that’s the communities that have been flooded, or sort of the receptors, one of the receptors of flooding, or with the farming community.  If you can get those on board from an early part of the project, then things will be a lot more successful.  At early engagement means that they could input into the project, they can have ideas about how they would like to see things done, they can tell you about the impacts on their businesses and how costs of delivering things like this might impact them.

Natural Course made a massive difference to this work.  It provided us with funding for one of our NFM Officers, who has been working with these farmers for the last three years, and that is invaluable.  Having that person in the community day in, day out with the farmers has meant this project has had a real kickstart.  It’s also meant that we can go out to farms and deliver whole farm NFM reports which basically gives us a project on a shelf for every farm that we’ve been on to. And, if we look at a map of the upper catchment on most farms, we have maps of what NFM could be delivered there, which means that even if it isn’t delivered in this project, in the future if we have funding opportunities, we could go out and get that funding for something that is sat on the shelf, which is absolutely