September has been a busy month for our natural flood management (NFM) work with an exciting new farm scheme now well and truly underway. We have been working together with the landowner to create nine scrapes (shallow, temporary ponds), two field corner ponds, and a floodplain meadow. Arable fields are also being transformed to more diverse mixes.
It’s not been an easy ride with having to navigate the weather and a very busy time for the farmer with harvesting but we’ve achieved a lot with the help of our wonderful volunteers and been treated to close encounters with a family of buzzards, glimpses of kingfishers, regular heron sightings and flashes of bullfinch and yellowhammer. All of the newly created features should help to capture and slow down the rate of rainwater and runoff entering the River Rother which runs through the farm at the same time as boosting wildlife habitat (more details on this below). Though this project alone is unlikely to have a noticeable impact on reducing flood risk, it’s part of a wider scheme of projects throughout the catchment that cumulatively will help to capture more water and slow flows, allowing more time to prepare for flood events and reducing their severity. There’s more work to be done on the farm but we’re already very much looking forward to seeing how it all develops and will keep you posted!
Scrapes & field corner ponds
We’ve created nine scrapes of varying shapes and sizes in the floodplain of the farm. These are shallow depressions that hold rain or floodwater acting as temporary stores. They are often wet through winter months and can dry up completely during dry spells. Scrapes create great habitat for invertebrates which in turn attract various bird species including waders such as lapwing and snipe.
Two ponds have been formed in the corners of an arable field that was too waterlogged to be cultivated. These will create more wetland habitat on the farm as well as further storage for rainfall and runoff. Sediment carried into the ponds with runoff will settle out in to the bottom, preventing it from polluting the river.
This project aims to establish a roughly 2 ha floodplain meadow, a habitat which has largely been lost from our countryside. Seed collected from floodplain meadows in the Lower Derwent Valley Special Area of Conservation just outside York was hand sown by a team of volunteers. The seed mix included a wide variety of grasses, wildflowers, sedges and rushes and will create another important habitat for insects and birds. The longer vegetation also causes more resistance to rainfall and runoff as it travels through the landscape further helping to slow flows.
Diverse herbal Ley
Two fields on the farm have been sown with a mix of grasses, herbs and legumes. These herbal leys can help deliver a whole range of benefits. They provide more resources for pollinators compared with a traditional crop such as barley, for example. They can also help to improve the condition of the soil so that it can absorb more rainwater, preventing it from running straight off, and require fewer fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides reducing the amount of water and pollutants being washed into the river.
Over autumn and winter we’ll be working to improve some of the existing hedgerows on the farm as well as planting a new one. Further details on this to come!
This project is funded by the Severn Trent Water Boost for Biodiversity fund.