SRA Annual Report 2019-20: Introduction to Land Management and Natural Flood Management 2019-20

2019-20 summary

  • 16 capital grant schemes (including 7 on the National Trust’s Holnicote estate in West Somerset)
  • 4 Triple C schemes
  • 26 highways referrals
  • 18 soil visits
  • and an online auction for natural flood management works which generated 147 successful bids
Somerset Rivers Authority funds the biggest range of natural flood management activities in the UK

This workstream has won three national and international awards, the latest in April 2019 (1st Prize in the Interreg 2 Seas Project Video Awards).

It is known for its sophistication, strong partnership working and dogged attention to local detail.

Innovations backed include the country’s first online auctions for natural flood management (NFM) works, and pilot projects with beavers and ‘Stage 0’ processes of river restoration.

This workstream is led for the SRA by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest (FWAG SW).

Activities generally go under the popular local branding of Hills to Levels. This makes it easier for partners to get involved and to contribute match-funding so that more can be achieved. Also – as Somerset has some famous hills and valleys and floodplains – people just get the idea of trying to slow the flow of water from Hills to Levels.

The SRA is one of several bodies that have funded Hills to Levels over the last four years, firstly using Growth Deal money from the Heart of the SW Local Enterprise Partnership and more recently, money from council tax.

The three main strands of work are:

1) capital grants offered to farmers and landowners for Natural Flood Management projects that slow the flow of water and reduce flooding risks across the county

2) ‘highways referrals’ – that is, looking for answers to highway flooding problems in better management of land nearby

3) soil husbandry to reduce surface water run-off

All this work aims:

  • to reduce the depth and duration of floods in Somerset
  • to diminish local flash flooding and flood risks
  • and to minimise sediment being washed from fields on to the banks of rivers. The benefits of this include less need for de-silting in lower catchments and less need for pumping to remove water on the Somerset Levels & Moors.


FWAG SW is monitoring the effectiveness of natural flood management in different parts of Somerset. Methods include loggers to record changes in flows, fixed-point photography and channel form measurements.

SRA-funded schemes under review in collaboration with a PhD student from Bristol University include a floodplain water retention initiative near Halse in the Halse Water catchment and 20 interventions in the Marcombe Valley in the Upper Tone catchment near Ashbrittle.

Another PhD student from Oxford University is monitoring a series of woody dams recently installed near Chesterblade in the catchment of the River Alham.

In December 2019, FWAG SW installed loggers near Cothelstone, in the Back Stream catchment above Taunton, where the SRA has also funded work.

Monitoring like this will increase understanding of the effectiveness and the benefits of natural flood management, and potentially help to improve the design of future schemes and structures.

AN ONLINE EXTRA: The storymap below gives more details about the Wellhams Brook catchment east of Yeovil, where the SRA has now funded or part-funded more than 50 different measures. In it, click or tap on ‘Learn More’ to get more details. Text continues below…

A note from Binegar

Meanwhile FWAG SW and the SRA are always heartened to hear anecdotal evidence of schemes’ effectiveness. Binegar Parish Council, for example, wrote in November 2019 to say that a leaky pond, scrape and bund created in 2018 at Binegar Bottom “worked really well, last week in particular through the heavy downpours. Several villagers have commented on how well it ran down the combe and through the pipe in the bund… the water gathered and drained perfectly.”


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