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Reconnecting the flood plain Long Preston Deeps SSSI project

Natural flood management

Floods are nothing new. Humans have lived with extreme weather for thousands of years. 

However, climate change science predicts an increase in occurrence and severity of high rainfall events. Subsequent increases in extreme flooding will follow suit.

Within the UK, our flood defence system includes large-scale, hard engineered solutions in and around major cities, flood banks, and small scale engineered solutions for rural communities and farmland and coastal engineering. 

There is increasing political and public interest in how the management of the wider countryside can contribute to the UKs flood defence system, with particular reference made to natural flood management (NFM).

Working with farmers and landowners in the National Park to deliver landscape-scale natural flood management projects is one of the objectives agreed by the Authority and a wide range of local partner organisations in the National Park Management Plan 2019-24.

What is natural flood management?

Natural flood management aims to reduce the downstream maximum water height of a flood (the flood peak) or to delay the arrival of the flood peak downstream, increasing the time available to prepare for floods. 

This is achieved by restricting the progress of water through a catchment using a range of techniques which work with the natural features to slow down or store flood waters. They rely on one, or a combination, of the following underlying mechanisms:

  1. increasing soil infiltration
  2. evaporation
  3. slowing water
  4. storing water
  5. reducing water flow connectivity 

Natural flood management structures have been designed so that they do not significantly impact on farming, are typically small in size, and can be considered an extension to the farm’s land drainage system.

Why land management in the National Park can play its part

The main rivers that rise within the National Park flow through a number of our regions, larger towns and cities, and, on occasion, cause significant flood damage. 

Within the National Park, the rivers cause flooding to communities and farmland, causing main roads to become blocked and properties to flood. High rainfall events can cause damage to farm property – for example, prolonged inundation of farmland, soil loss, erosion of farm tracks, and flooding of farm buildings.

Whatever your focus is, as a farmer and land manager you may be in a position to help contribute to reducing flooding, locally or regionally.

Research carried out by Leeds University in Coverdale indicates that a combination of simple flood management measures over 10% of the catchment area can help slow down the flow of water during high rainfall events by up to 12%. This is a significant effect and is something that can be achieved from a farming and land management perspective without sacrificing production levels or greatly altering land management practices.

Natural Flood Management Measures – a guide for farmers 

A  new guide has been developed to provide the advice and key information needed to aid decision-making, should you wish to install flood management features on your farm. 

The measures have been grouped into three different levels of intervention. Each is described in terms of its effectiveness, its benefit to agricultural production, and its overall set up and maintenance costs. 

The guide has been put together by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and North Yorkshire County Council, with support from our partners in the Environment Agency and Natural England.

Help us keep track

If you choose to implement a natural flood management technique on your land, let us know:

  • the date of construction
  • which treatment was implemented
  • the size and number of treatments implemented.

This will help us monitor the use of natural flood management in our area and evaluate its success.

Contact the Farm Conservation Team on 01756 751600 or farming@yorkshiredales.org.uk