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Saturday, 16 January 2021

University of 3rd AgePreventing flooding by slowing the flow of water

Adrian Horton, one of the founders of Slow the Flow, gave a powerful and enthusiastic talk to the members of Todmorden U3A on Monday evening at 7 pm, as the first of a special event for the group to bring to the fore local issues. Nearly 60 people heard Adrian deliver a passionate speech, by Zoom, outlining the four key areas that the group had worked in since being formed in 2016.

He started by describing the projects at Hardcastle Crags where 620 leaky dams had been created in three years. Because Adrian and his team of volunteers cannot be there to monitor the leaky dams, they ask members of the public in the area, to rest their mobile phone on the inlet on a numbered post, and take a photo of the water coming through the dams. This may seem simple, but it works in concert with measurement by the ‘V’ Notch Plate Weirs with Pressure Transducers at the top and bottom of the streams or water courses to measure the difference in flow.

The pioneering work done by the Slow the Flow team has not only led to a 2.5 million pound grant being awarded to the National Trust to carry on the work of building leaky dams across West Yorkshire, but also to achieving worldwide recognition for their work in trying to control water running off the land and into the valley.

Flooding in the Calder Valley has been recorded since before the 1600s, and since then climate change has had an even greater impact on the amount and frequency of rainstorms on the hills. As well as this, our urban environment has changed significantly since the middle of the 19th century, when rain had plenty of opportunities to dissipate into the soil and the space that was all around. Now that soil and space has been taken up with tarmac, concrete, flagstones, new developments of houses, shops and factories such that it now has nowhere to go and therefore ultimately ends up in our homes.

Adrian gave a range of simple solutions under the heading, Sustainable Drainage Solutions (SuDS), that we can all do in our gardens and yards. It could be installing 100 L water butts, creating roof gardens or just placing strategic planters around our drives and gardens. Think objectively about your outdoor space and see whether some of the concrete and paving could be replaced with grass, gravel or permeable membranes to allow the water to flow through and away, and if that process we can propagate plants and shrubs so much the better. As Adrian said, “Let’s try and get the water working for us rather than against us”.

Lastly Adrian described the initiative called Volunteer Your Land whereby if you have fields, woodland, farms or large gardens then allowing the Slow the Flow team to carry out tree planting, installing dams, swales or attenuation ponds that will help prevent the land below and around from flooding. The examples given was of two attenuation ponds above Peckett Well that stored 600,000 L of water stopping properties lower down being flooded regularly. £1 million of central government money has been spent since 2016 on 20 schemes completed with a further 70 schemes under consideration.

Adrian finished by exhorting us all to think how we can help slow the flow be it as a volunteer, or a landowner giving an opportunity for flood management to be carried out, or just thinking how we each can change our gardens and drives to make them more water friendly.

The next regular Todmorden U3A Monthly Members Meeting by Zoom will be on Thursday 21st January 2021 at 1.45 p.m., open to all fully paid up members for 2021. It will be by Deborah North talking about 'Travelling Coast to Coast in a wheelchair called ‘Harriet'.

Our contact details are www.u3atod.org.uk (website), info@u3atod.org.uk (email), or 01422 886021 (phone).

Many thanks to Michael Astrop for this report


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