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Pleas for countryside anti-flood measures one year after Storm Desmond

Hundreds of farms were damaged. Credit: ITV Border

The National Farmers Union and National Trust are calling on the government to do more to make the countryside flood-resilient.

Flooding in parts of northern England after Storm Desmond's record rainfall a year ago caused landslides and river bank erosion, saw tonnes of stones and gravel washed on to agricultural land, killed sheep and damaged paths, fencing and walls.

The National Trust, which looks after a fifth of the land in the Lake District including England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike, William Wordsworth's childhood home and 91 tenanted farms, said its rangers were still fixing the damage caused.

The charity said it was left facing a £1 million clean-up bill from floods, including £600,000 of uninsured damage.

Parts of the Lake District were damaged by the floods. Credit: ITV Border

And hundreds of farmers affected by Storm Desmond, which hit farming communities across northern England, are still waiting for emergency funding to restore agricultural land, the National Farmers Union (NFU) said.

Storm Desmond brought record rainfall to the Lake District, with 341.4 mm (13.4 inches) falling at Honister Pass, Borrowdale, Cumbria, in a 24-hour period.

The National Trust said many of its important places in the national park were hit.

Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, and the boathouse and shop at Fell Foot Country Park were left under water, landslides on Cat Bells, near Keswick, ripped through paths popular with walkers and stones were washed into and damaged Myners Head Mine, Ullswater.

With Storm Desmond the third major storm to hit the Lake District in a decade, the National Trust is calling for ways to make the region more resilient, including natural measures to reduce floods such as planting trees and restoring rivers to their original course.

Mike Innerdale, National Trust assistant director of operations in the Lake District, said:

Our ranger teams have worked alongside tenant farmers, local communities and partner organisations to fix the damage that Storm Desmond left in its wake.

With major storms occurring more frequently, we need to think about ways of making the Lakes more resilient to flooding.

This will require all of us involved in managing this special place to work together to find solutions to how this landscape may need to be managed and funded differently to make it more resilient to these events, while retaining the special qualities of the Lakes, like the traditions of hill farming and communal grazing."

– Mike Innerdale, National Trust assistant director of operations in the Lake District
Farmers are still waiting for payments. Credit: ITV Border

The National Trust has welcomed the Government's £15 million commitment to natural flood defence measures, which the organisation says can help reduce flooding downstream.

The NFU also welcomed funding for natural flood defences but said they were not a universal solution and must be used alongside other measures across water catchments to improve flood resilience for rural as well as urban communities.

NFU deputy president Minette Batters said flood prevention needed to recognise the importance of the food and farming industry, and that some of the most productive agricultural land was in floodplain or coastal areas and should be protected.

And she said:

Storm Desmond and the subsequent flooding brought devastation to farming businesses and many are still feeling the effects.

Farmers have faced months of uncertainty over access to the flood recovery fund, piled on top of delays to their annual farm payments. This is totally unacceptable and must be resolved as a matter of urgency."

– NFU deputy president Minette Batters

An Environment Department (Defra) spokeswoman said: "The Government has invested £300 million in helping communities recover from last winter's floods - this includes almost £4.4 million paid out to farmers to complete flood repairs."

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