Natural Flood Management in West Yorkshire

New trees in tree guards on an upland landscape with blue skies

Reducing flood risk the natural way

Looking after the breathtaking uplands of West Yorkshire is crucial to support the region’s nature and people. Water is a key part of this landscape; peat bogs, rivers, streams and reservoirs have shaped the landscape, ecology, history and culture of the area and continue to influence the people and the wildlife that calls West Yorkshire home. Many of our uplands and watercourses have been damaged and degraded through industrialisation and the impacts of human activities. We're working hard to protect these landscapes; restoring and creating habitats which reduce flood risk, provide clean water, capture carbon and provide vital wildlife habitats for future generations. 

Our work forms part of a multi-million Natural Flood Management project to look after these landscapes and improve West Yorkshire’s future resilience to extreme events like flooding and moorland fires – both increasingly likely as our climate changes. With generous funding from West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the Environment Agency we’re working with Yorkshire Water and the Woodland Trust to restore and protect this unique, bleak and beautiful landscape and reap the benefits that healthy uplands and watercourses bring. 

Over 100,000 trees have been planted at Gorpley, West Yorkshire
New trees in tree guards on an upland landscape with blue skies
Over 100,000 trees have been planted at Gorpley, West Yorkshire

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So far we’ve planted over 100,000 trees, created 860 leaky dams and restored 350 hectares of upland landscape. All these interventions mean we’ve helped reduce fire risk, slow the flow of water and capture carbon, as well as restoring habitat for wildlife. 

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Tree planting in West Yorkshire

We've planted thousands of native trees with our partners at Yorkshire Water, The White Rose Forest and The Woodland Trust as part of our commitment to combat climate change.

Gorpley reservoir

At Gorpley (a Yorkshire Water site near Todmorden) we've planted 112,000 trees to help slow the flow of water to the valley below, stabilise soils and capture carbon. Provided by the Woodland Trust, these trees form part of the White Rose Forest and Northern Forest.  

We've also repaired exposed banks using fascines; bundles of willow or brushwood that stop the soil eroding and ending up in our watercourses, as well as helping to slow rainwater pouring off the hillside during storms.  

Gorpley is a pioneering project which will help guide our work in similar landscapes for the future, as well as the foundation for the partnership between Yorkshire Water and National Trust. 

Building timber leaky dams.
Volunteers build timber leaky dams on Marsden Moor in the sunshine
Building timber leaky dams.

Leaky dams

At Gorpley, Hardcastle Crags and at Marsden Moor, we've also built leaky dams along waterways. These can be made of stone, timber, living willow or even sods of earth. Although these leaky dams only hold small amounts of water temporarily during storms, we're aiming to build hundreds of dams like this across the landscape. This will slow the flow of water to and reduce flood risk to downstream homes and businesses. The dams also help repair peat soils on moorland, which will turn the uplands back into a sponge which holds water and captures carbon. 

Re-wetting the moorland helps reduce fire risk
A soggy area of ground on Marsden Moor under blue skies
Re-wetting the moorland helps reduce fire risk

Future plans

Our work looking after these landscapes is crucial to help us understand the best way to restore our uplands. We’re really pleased with the progress we’ve made so far and want to extend this work to cover other sites across West Yorkshire, including those owned by Yorkshire Water, so we can have even more of an impact on reducing flood risk, reducing fire risk and restoring peatland habitats. 

A pile of lots of different sized sticks and logs at Hardcastle Crags

Slow the Flow - Natural Flood Management at Hardcastle Crags

Have you every wondered why we make dams in Hardcastle Crags? Find out about the partnership work that we're doing to help reduce flood risk in Calderdale.