Lake District Landscape Flood Appeal

Monday 13th June 2016

Barbon Beck Bridge

The former bridge over this beck was seriously damaged by Storm Desmond in December 2015. The bridge was damaged beyond economic repair and thus a full replacement was required at this popular crossing. 

The new bridge (below) was installed by Cumbria County Council, in June 2016 and funded by our 'Landscape Flood Appeal'. Thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters, the appeal has now raised over £60,000. To find out more about the appeal and how you can contribute, visit the Landscape Flood Appeal page on our website.

Over the next few months we will be working with the National Parks, local and county councils, farmers’ groups and local communities to begin to restore this beautiful county piece by piece. We have set up a Lake District Landscape Flood Appeal for those who want to contribute to fixing Cumbria’s landscapes and to help adapt this fragile terrain to better withstand future weather events. Our fund will enable vital restoration and resilience work to take place. Click to find out more about our Landscape Flood Appeal

Thursday 18th February 2016
Cumbria’s floods and their impact on soils: A presentation delivered by our Policy Officer Kate Willshaw at CPRE's NW Earthy Event earlier this year. Click to view

Tuesday 12th January 2016
Some questions that have been put to us about flooding answered by our Policy Officer Kate Willshaw:

* Is the government doing enough? Is throwing money at the problem, at the repairs, enough? What should the government be doing?

We don't think that the government is taking the right kind of actions.  Increased flooding is one of the predicted impacts of climate change, and over the past fifteen years we have seen episodes of extreme flooding occur more and more often both here and overseas.  The government should be both putting resources into climate change mitigation including CO2 emission reduction measures and also into increasing the resilience of our landscapes, properties and infrastructure to withstand more extreme rainfall events.


* Why is flooding on this scale still an issue?

Flooding of this scale is an issue because the magnitude of rainfall events is increasing.  Most flood defences are planned for a 1 in 100 or 1 in 200 year event.  However flooding events are increasing in severity and we are now seeing 1 in 500 or even 1 in 1000 year events on a semi-regular basis.  Flood defences built to manage smaller flooding events will not cope with flood heights which they are not designed to deal with.  If the climate change predictions are correct, and looking at the increase in flooding events over the past decade, this would seem to be the case, the goal posts are moving. What has been considered a 1 in 100 year event is now a 1 in 50 year event or even more common.  Our infrastructure including roads, energy infrastructure and water infrastructure as well as flood defences has not been designed to cope with a changing climate and the risks that come with it: this must be addressed urgently.


* What can be done to prevent flooding? How do you think flooding should be prevented?

It is not possible for all flooding to be prevented.  In a situation with increased extreme rainfall events (the record rainfall total for 24 hours was broken in 2009, and then again in 2015) it will not be possible to completely prevent flooding.  However, properties and infrastructure at risk of flooding can be made more resilient to cope with flood events.  Land upstream of towns and villages can be managed to allow it to flood and then let the water drain away more slowly which reduces the peak height of floods.  Research into slowing the flow of water upstream from settlements is being carried out at the moment in a number of places in the UK.  The results of this research is showing increases in the capacity of the soil to hold water depending on how it is managed (e.g. through tree planting, changing the grazing regime, reducing heather burning and leaky dams on streams). As a country, we seriously need to look at how we manage water upstream before it reaches settlements and learn best how to attenuate high peak flows. 


* Is working with nature the best defence - like in Pickering? Would these kind of defence work elsewhere, if not, what would?

Working with nature may be a solution in some catchments.  However, there is no one size fits all answer as all river catchments are different and what is suitable in one place may not work in another.  We would suggest that rivers prone to flooding property and endangering life will all need to be looked at individually to find solutions.  However, we do think that there are some easy wins: for example in the upper reaches of Cumbrian, Lancashire and Yorkshire river, there is scope to block “grips” that were dug in peatland during the 1950s to move water out of the fells more quickly.  This would slow the flow and allow the water to be released gradually into the catchments reducing the peak height of flood water.

We are very aware though that once the landscape “sponge” is full, then the water will have nowhere to go, and in weather situations like we had during November and December 2015 where very high levels of rainfall saturated the ground prior to the extreme rainfall events on 5th December and 26th December, there will be nowhere for the water to go but downstream.  It is at this point that a decision needs to be made as to whether farmland or urban areas will end up flooding.  We may need to look at landowners and land managers being paid to allow their land to flood to prevent downstream flooding in settlements.  Other options include flood alleviation channels, flood storage reservoirs and improving hard engineering of flood defences in settlements.  However, this latter option often just channels the water faster downstream into other settlements moving the flooding problem downstream (e.g. from Keswick to Cockermouth on the Derwent or from Appleby to Carlisle on the Eden).

There is no one size fits all solution to flooding and flood management. The UK government will need to look at a portfolio of ways of managing extreme rainfall, some of which will be upstream land management, some of which will be flood relief and some of which will be hard engineering.  Unfortunately, this is not an issue that will go away, and these “unprecedented” events which are no longer unprecedented will come along more and more often in the UK because of a warmer atmosphere's ability to hold more water.  We need the government to acknowledge this, and put in place a package of measures to make people, property, businesses, infrastructure and farmland more resilient to extreme weather.

Below you can find links to a number of articles and papers on the issues of flooding and upstream catchment management

The Science Behind Flooding

"On Wednesday 6th January four scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) gave an hour-long background briefing on the science behind flooding. This wasn’t a news briefing, there was no new data or report published on the day, it was simply an opportunity for journalists to question flood science experts. At the start of the briefing Professor Alan Jenkins who is Director, Water and Pollution Science and Deputy Director of CEH introduced a number of key hydrological principles to get the discussion going. This blog post outlines the key points made at the start of the briefing. A subsequent post will cover the long discussion during the briefing covering the effectiveness of Natural Flood Management techniques such as tree planting, creation of woody debris dams and changes to upland management practices."

Why Dredging Makes Flooding Worse

"[After dredging], what do you think would happen for the 99% of the time that the river’s flow is back to normal and now far too low for the enormous channel you’ve dug? The river is carrying material, remember: mud, sand, gravel. All this material would drop out of the now almost static flows of a river in a channel that is miles too big and begin to fill it in again. Unless you dredged it every year, top to bottom, eventually you’d have the naturally-sized channel nestled inside the enormous dredged channel and you’d be back where you started.

Dredging doesn’t work. Dredging is logically and financially unsustainable. Dredging makes flooding worse."

Storm Desmond, Climate Change and Floods - blog post by Adrian Colston ex-National Trust

There is increasing concern in many circles now that the way that we are managing our  catchments and rivers is actually aggravating the problems we face from rain storms. Many catchments are now either denuded of vegetation (are in arable cultivation), have compacted soils (either from stock or agricultural machinery) or have short uniform vegetation (e.g. the uplands of much of Britain). These three factors ensure that any storm water which hits them travels very quickly into water courses (i.e. they are not absorbed by the soil) and then into rivers which have been straightened, deepened and dredged. The water then travels very quickly until it reaches an obstacle such as a bridge or a town – at which point the banks breach and flood defences are overtopped and flooding such as we have just witnessed in Carlisle occurs.

The role of Ecology in Mitigating Flooding

Paper submitted by the British Ecological Society to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Parliamentary Committee

The Role of Woodland in Flood Control - a Landscape Perspective

Sustainable flood management is increasingly looking to the role of catchment land use in alleviating downstream flooding. Woodland presents a number of opportunities that are dependent on its location within the landscape. One way that woodland can attenuate flooding is through the greater water use by trees. The overall impact on the generation of flood flows, however, depends on the interaction of many factors and is most marked at the headwater level. Another way relies on the ‘sponge effect’. Improved infiltration resulting from the targeted planting of sensitive soils or the use of down-slope woodland buffers could attenuate rapid run-off at the local scale. Finally, the greater hydraulic roughness associated with riparian and floodplain woodland can aid the retention and delay the passage of flood waters, potentially assisting downstream flood defence in larger catchments. This paper examines each of these opportunities and considers whether woodland can make a significant contribution to tackling future flooding as part of a whole-catchment approach to sustainable flood management.

Sunday Times Article 16th January 2016

Saturday 5th December saw record levels of rain fall over Cumbria in a 24 hour period. The resulting impacts on the communities and landscapes of the Lake District was catestrophic. 

We are still working with the National Parks and county council to try and assess the level of damage done. 

How you can report damage

If you come across any flood damage to public rights of way and bridges, or path erosion, you can report it in the following ways:
(NB in ALL instances, please provide details of the location, a 12 figures grid reference, a description of the damage / erosion, and photos if you can)

In the Lake District National Park, let the relevant Area Ranger know – click on the ranger areas to identify the correct ranger LDNPA_ranger_areas.pdf

In the rest of Cumbria, including the Cumbrian part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, send your reports to [email protected]

How you can give

We are promoting Cumbria Community Foundations Flood Appeal as a good way to give to those individuals who have been affected by the flooding.

If you would like to give to fixing the landscapes of the Lake District we have set up our own Lake District Landscape Flood Appeal