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Ponds and dams trialled to try and reduce flood risk

A 'leaky dam' inspired by the kerplunk game catches stones and sediment to stop them washing downstream and creating blockages Photo: Newcastle University

It's not just raining, it's pouring, when we arrive in the hills above Haltwhistle to see some ponds and a flood protection scheme inspired by a children's game. It turns out it's the perfect way to see the scheme in action, the water is pouring off the hills and straight into the ponds. They fill up, but then release the water more slowly. Further downstream, a system of logs criss-cross the watercourse, catching sediment and stones. The idea is to prevent a wall of water heading downhill through the Haltwhistle Burn and flooding homes.

One of the ponds above Haltwhislte before filling up. See Hannah McNulty's report below to see how they work when full Credit: Newcastle University

"We've discovered is a lot of small communities have been getting wiped out by very intense storms, so these (schemes) just slow down the flow and they take the peak off the flood"

– Paul Quinn, Senior Lecturer in Catchment Hydrology, Newcastle University

It's a collaborative project between Newcastle University, along with Tyne Rivers Trust, with the £13,000 cost funded by DEFRA and the Environment Agency.

It's not the only place going 'back to nature' to try and reduce flooding risk. On Towcett Farm near Shap in Cumbria, farmer Steven Carruthers has dug ponds on bits of his land he doesn't use. He's working with Eden Rivers Trust and Lancaster University; originally the idea was to try and stop topsoil washing off his land during storms but as a by-product, he believes he's protecting a nearby village by slowing the flow of water coming off his fields.

'Slow the Flow' is the name of a partnership between Cumbria Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency. Cumbria Wildlife Trust claims it's found mounting evidence that slowing the flow of water through river catchments can help delay and reduce the risk of flooding. At one of its nature reserves, Eycott Hill, near Blencathra, 8,000 trees have been planted and other measures are being carried out to try and store water on the land.

"Water movement through river catchments can be slowed by restoring blanket bog at the top of hills, by creating woods and hedgerows, re-meandering rivers and re-connecting rivers with their floodplains. As well as enriching the rural landscape, slowing the flow of water can also help biodiversity, improve water quality and sequester more carbon from the atmosphere. This is a great opportunity to help protect communities from future flooding, to benefit wildlife and to enrich the rural landscapes of the North West”.

– Tim Jacobs, Cumbria Wildlife Trust

See Hannah McNulty's report on some of the experimental schemes below: