Natural flood defence offers positive vision for the future

Natural flood defence offers positive vision for the future
A new flood management scheme in Tudeley Woods

Fifty ‘leaky dams’ were built on the Alder Stream catchment in the 900-acre site in an innovative project that will also help to protect the environment against climate change.

The steep-sided streams – known as ghylls – now have logs jammed across them. These will catch sticks and leaves to become what conservationists call ‘leaky wooden structures’.

The scheme is part of the Medway Flood Action Plan and was set up by the Hadlow Estate, which owns the woodland, in partnership with the environmental charity South East Rivers Trust [SERT].

Last month, the storms Ciara and Dennis brought torrential rain which at one stage peaked at 28mm in just one hour, as recorded in nearby Paddock Wood.

The Alder Stream is a tributary of the River Medway and has a history of flooding, and the scheme aims to help protect more than 50 residential properties at risk.

Dean Morrison, Natural Flood Management Project Officer for SERT, said: “Properties in Five Oak Green were flooded, as well as a row of properties including the Dovecote pub in Alders Road, Capel.

“While these cottages missed flooding from the Alder Stream, they were hit by water flowing off the hillsides and into the ditch network behind the village.

“Whilst it’s too early to claim that the number of leaky woody structures we’ve put in have had a significant impact yet, we checked on them during the storms and they’re functioning as they’re designed to.”

Harry Teacher’s family has owned Tudeley Woods – now an RSPB nature reserve – for 170 years as part of the 4,000-acre estate.

He said: “We are using natural methods to increase resilience to climate change. Leaky dams are an effective way of preventing flooding further downstream, but we are also working to prevent the woods from drying out, preserving the biodiversity of the flora and fauna here. It’s a win-win situation.”

Tudeley Woods is home to over almost 1,200 varieties of fungi as well as the rare marsh valerian flower, while the birdlife includes tree pipits, nightjars, woodlarks and lesser spotted woodpeckers.

The scheme means there is no need for expensive engineering work or pumping equipment. Much of the timber used had fallen naturally, with other logs were felled as part of routine tree husbandry.

“It’s a scheme that, if successful, could have implications for woodland management both nationally and further afield,” said Harry.

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