'Natural dams' flood management scheme in Whinlatter Forest is underway

Video report by Tim Backshall

Work has started on a natural flood management project at Whinlatter Forest which aims to help slow the flow of water towards Lorton and the River Cocker.

In partnership with Forestry England and the Environment Agency, West Cumbria Rivers Trust is installing over 200 leaky dams in Aiken Beck, Whinlatter Gill and various tributaries and forest ditches.

Made from logs and tree trunks from Whinlatter Forest itself, the dams will hold back water when beck levels are high during storms then drain gradually afterwards, reducing peak river levels downstream.

In the summer, embankments will be removed from the sides of Whinlatter Gill to restore the natural floodplain and keep water in the area for longer after storms.

The work is taking place in areas away from the Whinlatter Forest Visitor Centre and there will not be any trail closures.

West Cumbria Rivers Trust says the project is an important part of the River Cocker natural flood management and catchment restoration project.

Last year, the trust installed new rapids along a 650-metre stretch at Blaze Beck. This was to raise the water level and encourage the beck to use its floodplain again. It's hoped the new dams will complement this project too.

Cumbria has seen three major floods in recent years, with places like Cockermouth among the worst affected. The village of Lorton below Whinlatter Forest has suffered on all three of those occasions. It's hoped the leaky dams will help prevent this in future.