We all know that the weather is very changeable at the moment – on Saturday last week, our local weather brought us the promise of a day of sunshine that turned into a thunderstorm with hailstones bouncing off windscreens and creating havoc on and around the Nantwich battlefield as the town celebrated Holly Holy Day.
Some parts of the country have seen the wettest January since records began and the government finally decided this week that our armed forces were needed to help tackle floods in Somerset with additional equipment and manpower just to help people go about their daily lives. Although lack of river maintenance is getting some of the blame for the current situation in the Somerset levels (around 170,000 acres) and parts of Wales, heavy rainfall coupled with unusually high tides in some areas, has caused a lot of misery.
Muchelney in Somerset
The Department of the Environment has stated recently that flooding presents the greatest climate change risk to the UK with damage running into billions of pounds. Over the next ten years increased flooding will cost, not just financial stress as insurance premiums rise, but will impact on the mental well-being of those affected by flood damage. Farmers will be counting the cost in loss of revenue for years to come.
Does it seem a good plan then, to cut the flood defence budget?
We won’t comment, but what we will say is this… back in the 1990s a scheme was put in place along the headwater of the River Severn by Welsh farmers. They had concluded that the usual hill farming strategies employed weren’t working, despite back breaking work digging drains to take the flood water and loading the land with more and bigger livestock.
What was this groundbreaking and very successful scheme?
Trees and ponds! They planted shelter belts along the contours of the land – water apparently drains under trees over 60 times faster than through grass because of the root systems. They created ponds where the land was wettest to catch water rather than letting it run off the land. They closed the loop by using some of the wood grown by cutting and chipping it into bedding for their livestock, then recycled the used bedding as compost.
It’s not rocket science but it worked!
Unfortunately, tree planting grants in Wales have stopped and agricultural subsidy rules across the UK mean that a lot of farmers can’t adopt this practice without losing much needed government payments. So we keep pouring concrete and devising a plethora of alternative techniques that cost a fortune and may not work when in fact we could, just maybe, do something far simpler.
It seems the right hand doesn’t really want to know what the left hand could be doing!