The River Wye and Lugg Natural Flood Management (NFM) project was one of 26 catchment scale projects funded by Defra's £15m allocation for NFM projects in England. The project aimed to reduce flood risk to downstream communities by using natural techniques to slow the flow of water and increase the amount of water storage within the catchment.
Led by Herefordshire Council, the project adopted a partnership approach to delivery, working closely with landowners, communities, local flood action groups, parish councils and partner organisations to reduce flood risk. By working together, the project successfully implemented a wide variety of NFM measures including; 167.2 ha soil management measures (grassland aeration and arable sub-soiling), 267.5 ha over winter cover (cover cropping and under sewing maize), 20 attenuation areas, 3 in-ditch seepage barriers, 137 leaky dams, 1,117 m of fencing to enhance channel roughness or protect newly planted trees, 26 cross drains (traditional and natural design), 4.78 ha of tree planting, 795 m hedgerow planting, 2 rainwater harvesting systems, 0.8 ha meadow creation and 60 m of enhanced wetland ditch. Collectively, these measures are not only helping to reduce the flood risk to Herefordshire communities, but they're also delivering multiple benefits. The project continues to monitor the effectiveness of these NFM measures and the multiple benefits delivered.
In order to ensure communities were at the heart of the project, NFM community groups were set up in each catchment. Through group meetings, members were given the opportunity to find out about the project and share their local knowledge of flooding. This information was used to inform project delivery.
To help facilitate the delivery of NFM, Herefordshire Council administered the NFM Construction Grant scheme which was designed to provide financial support to landowners to enable them to implement NFM on their land. The grant scheme received 73 applications which were reviewed by a grant panel (payments totalled £83,459.02). The Woodland Trust provided financial support to tree and hedge planting applications.
As most of the land within the catchments is privately owned, it was essential to engage with local landowners and encourage them to get involved with the project. To do this, Catchment Advisors from WUF and SRT were employed by the project. By engaging with individual landowners (over 145), the advisors were able to discuss local flooding issues and land management practices. Using the information gathered from these discussions in conjunction with soil test data (advisors conducted free soil test as part of their visits) and SciMap erosion risk mapping, the advisors were able to identify opportunities for implementing NFM. The advisors then supported the landowner to apply for grant funding to help implement the recommended NFM measures (e.g. NFM Construction Grant scheme or Mid-Tier Countryside stewardship scheme).
By working in partnership with numerous organisations, community groups and landowners it has been possible to deliver a wide variety of NFM measures over a relatively short period of time. This approach has also ensured local knowledge and expertise has guided project delivery.
Whilst the three year Defra pilot project achieved a lot in a small space of time, there is still a lot more NFM work to do within the catchment areas. It takes time to develop trusted relationships with landowners and communities and to achieve positive long term behavioural changes.
As NFM is a new concept to many, it has been necessary to explain the principles of NFM to communities and to reassure them that it is an effective way of reducing their flood risk. We also recognised the importance of educating the younger generations about NFM and developed two educational videos aimed at KS2 and Year 7 pupils. These resources are available at: www.wyeuskfoundation.org/natural-flood-management-videos.
Leaky dam surveys.
Reduction in soil and nutrient loss.
Amount of carbon sequestered.