Natural Flood Management in West Yorkshire

Wessenden Valley, Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire

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 a 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 £2.6 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, 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.

Tree planting at Gorpley, near Todmorden.
Rows of young saplings on a moor at Gorpley, West Yorkshire.
Tree planting at Gorpley, near Todmorden.

The work involves working with natural processes to reduce flood risk. At Gorpley (a Yorkshire Water site near Todmorden) we're planting 102,000 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're also repairing exposed banks using fascines; bundles of willow or brushwoood that stop the soil eroding and ending up in our watercourses, as well as helping to slow rain water pouring off the hillside during storms. 

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

At Gorpley, Hardcastle Crags and at Marsden Moor, we're also building 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.

Logs and sticks create a natural barrier, slowing the flow of water

Slow the Flow - Natural Flood Management at Hardcastle Crags

Have you every wondered what these dams are for? Find out the partnership work that we're doing to help improve and monitor natural flood management in Calderdale.