People and nature set to benefit from £2.6 million water project

A team of volunteers working together to move a large log

National Trust to work with Yorkshire Water and community partners to deliver major conservation project in West Yorkshire.

Work has started on a two year project to help protect homes, and nurture wildlife, that were devastated by the Boxing Day floods in West Yorkshire in 2015. Alongside Yorkshire Water and a host of partners, we’re aiming to slow the flow of water along the Colne and Calder valley.

The project at Hardcastle Crags, Marsden Moor and Gorpley Reservoir (owned by Yorkshire Water and managed by the Woodland Trust) is one of the biggest investments of its kind in England. The aim is to reduce the risk of flooding to over 3,000 homes and businesses in Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, Marsden and surrounding areas.

" Traditional flood alleviation schemes have focused more on delivering hard infrastructures such as flood defence walls to protect the places where people live. However, there is increasing recognition of the role natural flood management can play to reduce the impacts of flooding on communities, while delivering key benefits for the natural environment."
- Craig Best, National Trust countryside manager for West Yorkshire

What work are we doing?

We’re planting just over 150 hectares of new woodland at Gorpley Reservoir and in the Wessenden Valley of Marsden Moor. We’re also restoring peat bogs, heath and Molinia (moor grass) here. At Hardcastle Crags, over 650 ‘leaky dams’ will be built. 

What’s a leaky dam?

A leaky dam is a small wooden or turf dam that allows water to flow through it at a normal rate, but if there’s heavy rainfall small volumes of water are held back and encouraged spill out of the channel and soak into the soils. The water in the channels is therefore slowed down and can help to reduce peak flows.

Building leaky dams at Hardcastle Crags
A pile of logs and branches laid across a stream to slow the flow of water
Building leaky dams at Hardcastle Crags

What are the benefits to wildlife?

We’re creating new places for wildlife to live and restoring the landscape to its natural state. By restoring bogs, heathland and molinia, water that falls as rain on these habitats is absorbed by plants such as sphagnum moss. The leaky dams that we will install will slow the flow of water in the various little channels and catch soils such as peat from leaving the bog habitat which would otherwise entre the river and eventually the sea/ocean. The heathland restoration includes planting plants such as heather, bilberry and crowberry.

Wildlife such as the short-eared owl will have healthier places to live
Brown and white short-eared owl
Wildlife such as the short-eared owl will have healthier places to live

How can I get involved?

One of the fantastic things about this project is the opportunity to get involved. At Hardcastle Crags we already work closely with our community partners, Slow the Flow Calderdale, but we will need more volunteers to help with all the different pieces of work that we have planned. Get in touch by emailing

Gully blocking helps to reduce peat erosion and provides better conditions for re-vegetating bare peat
Staff and volunteers blocking gullies
Gully blocking helps to reduce peat erosion and provides better conditions for re-vegetating bare peat

Our thanks to

This is all being made possible thanks to £1.3 million Growth Deal funding from Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and £1.3 million either in funds or in-kind support from other partners, including The Forestry Commission, Moors For The Future Partnership, Environment Agency, Woodland Trust, Yorkshire Water, Calderdale Council and other community groups. All partners have been working together as part of the White Rose Forest Partnership. New woodlands planted will help grow the White Rose Forest, part of the new Northern Forest.