SRA Annual Report 2019-20: Highways referrals
In ‘Highways referrals’ SRA partners look for answers to highway flooding problems in better management of land nearby.
Cases generally involve Somerset County Council’s Highways Department and the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest (FWAG SW), with the former referring problems on to the latter. Highways officers may be told about matters by various sources – for example, residents or parish councils – or they may spot issues themselves, when they are out and about.
Somerset West and Taunton
Carhampton: Reports from residents of run-off from a field damaging nearby properties, mainly gardens, plus possible pollution problems. FWAG SW to investigate.
Cheddon Fitzpaine: Reports from West Monkton Parish Council of localised road flooding also affecting property. Alleged problems include blocked drains and a relief pipe unable to cope with run-off from fields. FWAG SW to investigate.
Fitzhead, Wiveliscombe Road: A Somerset County Council Highways officer reported that a potato field was causing run-off problems. Following a meeting with a FWAG SW adviser, the farmer renting the field installed some temporary soil bunds to retain water. As potatoes are a 1 in 7-year crop, the problem is unlikely to be an annual one, particularly as some buffer strips have also been put in at the edges of the field through a Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier agreement put together with FWAG SW.
Langford Budville to Holywell Lake: Problems on the road caused by soil erosion from winter wheat; temporary filter fencing installed to trap sediment and slow the flow.
Lower Bilbrook: FWAG SW investigated localised flooding caused by water from three sources converging in the sunken road under the railway bridge. Site meetings were held with a local resident, the Dunster Estate and the tenant farmer. It was agreed that as fields on both sides are above road level it is inevitable that some water will run down. To combat this, it was agreed that road drains should be checked regularly and any blockages removed, and that soil in fields should be maintained in a good structural condition to enhance infiltration and reduce the risks of runoff. Flows should also be slowed locally because the farmer has been installing grass buffer strips through a Countryside Stewardship Mid-Tier agreement and he has twice been successful in bidding for grants for better maize management in SRA-backed online auctions for natural flood management works.
Milverton, Baghay Farm Lane: Run-off and silt from an arable field were causing problems on the road and in residential areas. Large gullies in the field caused by soil erosion were a factor. Appreciating that there were issues, the farmer dug some channels across the field to divert water away from properties and installed a series of temporary bales on the headland to help reduce soil loss on to the road. FWAG SW plan to visit again so that more long-term measures can be mutually mulled over.
Sampford Brett, Capton Farm: Red soil run-off was flowing out of a field and heading for the western end of Sampford Brett via a hard concrete footpath. A FWAG SW adviser visited the site with the landowner and provided filter fencing as a temporary measure to keep soil in the field. Advice was also given about improving soil integrity and structure, to help reduce erosion and problems with field gullies in future.
Tolland, Grove Farm: A local resident reported that water was running out of a gateway following parsnip cropping. FWAG SW visited to discuss temporary mitigation methods. The farmer put straw bales in the gateway to help keep water in the field. As the field has now been returned to grass, it is unlikely to cause any further problems.
Forton and Tatworth: Reports of a brook struggling to cope with heavy loads of water from ditches dug by farmers. FWAG SW visited to see if natural flood management measures could slow the flow of water down from the hills. There are three separate landowners: none was willing to engage.
Misterton, Station Road: Resident advised by Somerset County Council’s local highways office to report field run-off causing road flooding and also affecting nearby properties. FWAG SW to visit.
Isle Brewers, Bushfurlong Road: Reports of run-off causing localised flooding and damaging the highway. On FWAG SW’s first visit the road was closed by flooding. Investigation ongoing.
Haselbury Plucknett, Clay Castle: Reports of highway flooding and a roadside ditch requiring clearing and maintenance. FWAG SW to visit.
Haselbury Plucknett, Swan Hill, Puddletown: Reports of run-off from arable fields contributing to localised flooding on East Close. However, when FWAG SW visited during wet weather, no evidence of flooding was seen, quite possibly because the area was then cropped with temporary grassland. If land use changes, and if future reports of problems are received, this site will be re-visited.
Podimore: Reports of frequent road flooding prompted a FWAG SW investigation into several ditches, pipes and fields. Ditches owned by private landowners were well-maintained and flowing well, nor did maize stubble appear to be a factor. However, the ditch next to the sewage works was very overgrown and needed digging. FWAG SW contacted Wessex Water to discuss this.
Wincanton, West Hill: Following reports of maize field run-off causing localised road flooding and problems, FWAG SW visited the landowner, who agreed to dig a trench to an existing drain which is piped to a nearby gully. This helped but further improvements are to be discussed.
Maperton, North Cheriton Road: Reports of run-off causing highway problems, FWAG SW to investigate.
North Brewham, Hammer Street: Reports of water running off from fields and emerging out of blocked ditches during heavy rain, and then pouring in torrents down the road, damaging the highway and leaving debris. FWAG SW to visit landowner.
Norton Sub Hamdon, Great Street: Sheep grazing over the winter in stubble turnips poached the ground in one field, and carrot harvesting compacted soil in the field next to that, so run-off flowed down a track and on to Great Street. As the stubble turnips field was due to be cropped with maize, another high-risk crop for run-off, FWAG SW visited to inspect the soil and offer advice. Matters discussed included cultivating the ground to improve the infiltration of water, and ways of managing maize during and after harvesting that could reduce run-off and erosion this coming winter. FWAG SW also suggested entering into a Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier scheme that could provide payments for establishing grass buffer strips in the field.
South Petherton, Whitfield Lane: As soils in this area are very sandy and light, they are also very prone to erosion. Over the winter, run-off from an arable field was flowing down Whitfield Lane and Carey’s Hollow causing problems with silt deposition and flooding. In late January 2020, FWAG SW visited the landowner to discuss issues and inspect the soil. In February, filter fencing was supplied as a temporary measure to try to reduce the amount of sediment leaving the field. In March, a report to the landowner advised various measures to improve the soil’s resilience and boost its aggregation, such as applying organic manures, incorporating straw residues from crops, using cover crops, and including grass in the field’s crop rotation cycle. FWAG SW also suggested installing silt traps in two corners of the field, and establishing a grass buffer area to slow the flow of any runoff. A follow-up is planned.
Tintinhull to Montacute: The co-ordinator of Martock’s flood wardens, Gordon Swindells, reported that run-off from a gateway on the Tintinhull to Montacute road was causing localised flooding. Following talks with the landowner and a Somerset County Council Highways officer, FWAG SW devised a scheme and put it out to tender. An application for SRA / Triple C funding is expected, once some revised specifications details have been agreed with the landowner. (For other news involving Mr Swindells see page XX).
Cannington, Currypool: Runoff causing localised road flooding on road. FWAG SW visited and drew up a plan of action. Suggested improvements include removing a manure heap, reducing soil compaction and installing a larger culvert pipe. A scheduled meeting with the landowner had to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chapel Allerton, Ashton Windmill: Somerset County Council’s local highways team reported that water running off from a field was causing road flooding, sometimes for long periods. A FWAG SW soil inspection in October 2019 found problems with ground compaction. As a first step, coir rolls and filter fencing were installed, funded by the SRA and Triple C (see below).
At a meeting between FWAG SW, the landowners, a Somerset County Council Highways officer and the local county councillor, the next best step was agreed to be sub-soiling. This could not be done over the winter of 2019-20 as the weather was too wet. However, sub-soiling is planned for late summer/autumn 2020, after the landowner successfully bid for SRA funding in the latest online NFM auction held in March 2020.After that work is done, it can be decided whether more actions need to be taken, such as hedge-laying and possibly ditch and culvert work.
Moorland: Reports of a blocked gully and polluted material sitting on the road, with concerns about direct discharge into Northmoor Main Drain and thence the River Parrett. A FWAG SW site visit made with the nearby farmer in June 2019 found no evidence of problems. A repeat visit during wet weather in winter likewise found nothing requiring any further action.
Wembdon, A39 Quantock Road: Reports of significant surface water run-off from adjacent farmland for at least the last 2 winters, raising dangers of flooding and ice. An investigation by Somerset County Council’s area highways office showed that a farm drainage ditch and pond appeared not to have been maintained for some time, while the creation of a field gate had also severed the ditch, so that water is now discharging on to the road. Ongoing investigation by FWAG SW.
Stone Allerton: A parish councillor reported localised road flooding. A FWAG SW visit with the councillor explored a range of issues including silted-up manholes, standing water in ditches, numerous springs feeding into a stream and a complicated historic drainage system of French drains. FWAG SW intend to focus on the need for ditch maintenance as the best solution.
Lamyatt, Portway Hill: Reports of run-off from maize fields causing soil on the road to block drains. An initial inspection by FWAG SW in November 2019 showed that grass had been drilled following maize, which should have helped to reduce run-off over the winter, however local highways officers say that some problems continued into 2020. It is therefore hoped to find solutions for next winter.
A few 2018-19 follow-ups
Some cases take longer than a year to resolve. The SRA values persistence and determination.
Dinder and Masbury, A371: Reports of surface water on private land discharging on to the highway. FWAG SW, the estate landlord and tenants met in February 2019 to discuss natural flood management and maize management. The farmer at Masbury has created a leaky pond; talks at Dinder are ongoing as local highways officers report continuing concerns.
Vobster Cross to Hatchett Hill: Surface water from private land is discharging on to the highway. Discussions have been held with the farmer and the Mendip division of Somerset County Council’s Highways Department about possible solutions, including enhanced flood water storage in the field and clearing the culvert beneath the road. No definitive answers have yet been found but they are still being sought.
North Petherton: In 2018-19, FWAG SW advised the landowner about run-off from a field adjoining Dancing Hill and the High Street in North Petherton. Following that, the landowner won a grant for better maize management in the 2019 online NFM auction (12.37 hectares at this site). It is maize which has caused problems here in the past: no difficulties when in grass.
Peasmarsh, near Ilminster: In 2018-19, there were reports of run-off from a field next to the A358 causing flooding to properties. The farmer agreed to install a cross drain in the gateway to divert run-off to an adjoining ditch. FWAG SW have since contacted the farmer several times. It is still hoped that works will be completed.
Taunton Deane (as was in 2018-19)
M5 southbound near Shoreditch: More work has been carried out in 2019-20 on serious problems that FWAG SW began to investigate for the SRA in 2018-19, namely frequent flooding on the M5 southbound carriageway near Shoreditch causing several accidents. In 2018-19, FWAG SW and Highways England visited the site with the landowner. Soil was inspected and areas were identified for natural flood management. A scheme has now been drawn up and an application for SRA funding is expected soon. (In 2018-19, a programme of drainage maintenance was also agreed with Highways England).
Trull: In 2018-19, FWAG SW began discussions with a farmer about water flowing onto the road from farm fields and a track. In 2019-20, further discussions were held as part of wider catchment work seeking to resolve issues at Dipford reported by the local county councillor. However, two wet weather surveys then showed no problems. It is now thought that issues in the past were caused by roadside ditches that had not been maintained.
Wiveliscombe, Pyncombe Lane: Surveys in 2019-20 showed positive results from moves made in previous years to reduce the risks of landslides and run-off.
Earlier works funded by the SRA included the installation of Redi rock stabilising blocks, coir matting, coir rolls and filter fencing, and the shift of boundary fencing away from field edges to reduce land slippage into Pyncombe Lane. Tarmacking along the road edge to aid drainage, and road sweeping to clear debris, has also helped to keep existing drains working well.
In fields buffering the lane, field corners have been left ungrazed and grass field margins have been established, following helpful discussions with landowners about soil structure and avoiding grazing and machinery movements on fields after prolonged spells of wet weather.