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Floods - Practical solutions

From H Gregg

Monday, 11 June 2012

I see in Hebweb News that "Calderdale Council and the Environment Agency are now proposing a joint working group that will include British Waterways, Yorkshire Water and the local community to look at the whole of Upper Calderdale and consider all the options for reducing the risk of flooding in the area."

It occurs to me that there will be many people in Mytholmroyd and Hebden bursting with suggestions (practical, inventive, radical, mundane, political - whatever!). Maybe this forum would be a good place to log those ideas.

I'm sure that any ideas will be noticed by people connected with the working group and be passed on. If not, our wonderful Hebweb will do the job.

So if (like me) you don't like going to public consultations - put your suggestions here.

Here's a starter - the council should fit a removable tight fitting flood door on every property/business liable to flood damage - just slots in to grooves around the lower door frame. I've seen this in Staithes. Compared with the cost of remedial action it would probably be worth it.

From Andrew Beck

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Council Flood Defense team that was practical and useful would be a start, we had an army of assessors and consultants up Nutclough who when asked said:

'We are not able to give advice as to what to do' and when asked if they could access some sandbags, as shops were closed by this time, said:

'Sorry we can't as this is not a flood prone area'

As it was flooding in front of them.

Have to say though the volunteer teams, passing strangers and friends were incredible, helpful, enthusiastic and just brilliant.

From Harry H

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Suggestion 1 - floodgates on the footbridge that leads to the Old People's day centre/children's centre - the present arrangement leads to a massive gap in the flood wall.

2. Reinstate a lock-keeper. In the 98? Flood, the lock keeper who lived in the cottage next to the Stubbings lock, drove up at great risk to himself all the way to Summit, he opened gates, and lifted the boards on the run-offs into the river. The only one he couldn't reach was at Callis as it was already flooding. There is now nobody doing that job, so there was more damage which could have been avoided.

3. Work on restoring the vegetation on the eroded tracks that the scramblers and 4 x 4 drivers created between the Skip and Nook, east of Old Town.

4. Prioritise, re-creating blanket bog on the Tops, and encourage planting bands of trees along the top of the fields below the moorland edge.

How's that for starters.

From Benny M

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Aside from the obvious, has anyone checked the state of the twenty or more abandoned former mill lodges and ponds that line the valley from Walsden to Sowerby Bridge.Billions of litres of water held back by earth banks only.Sooner rather than later one of these will burst with catostrophic effects as the majority of them are sited on higher ground.One hopes that the authorities commisson surveys as a matter of urgency.

From Guy Rees

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Has anyone mentioned Treesponsibility? The group was set up to leessen the effects of climate change in the Valley by planting trees on the watershed to stop events such as Mondays flash floods, which didn't just affect the valley bottom.

This is obviously a long term solution compared to the EA groundwork and flood alleviation project, but non the less vital. Tree cover is still at a dismally small proportion (6%?) and not helped by the conservationists' attitude to heather (grouse) moorland and upland sheep farming which preserve the treeless watershed to cause such extreme runoff events.

(Indeed the BTCV work programme involves removing Birch trees from the 'Heritage' heather moorland) If ever there was another wake up call to plant trees on the watershed to regulate water run off this was surely it!

From Dave H

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Guy, the spongy blanket bog that exists, and has done for thousands of years, on the Pennine hills above our region is the best possible environment to slow the rainwater from pouring down off the tops. If people start messing with it, by artificially planting trees or creating aggressive drainage for example, it prevents that from happening. And yes, conservationists do sometimes remove invasive birch from those environments as, in a hypothtical 'natural balance', that job would be taken care of by the large herbivores - i.e. deer etc. Planting trees on blanket bog / spongy moorland is not the solution we are looking for here.

From H Gregg

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Part of the problem is the river rising at points where flow is restricted - if a faster and greater flow could be encouraged it might alleviate the problem.

The river can't be widened but it might help to remove some of the restrictions - the islands and trees near the Old Bridge and after the main road bridge. Also dredging out the river to a greater depth might help.

A wilder and maybe silly (but cheap) solution could be the installation of an array of propellers at the end of these restricted sections to force water out of them at high speed, possibly doubling the speed (not permanent - they could be lowered into the flow in emergencies).

And once flooding has started, what about BIG, dedicated flood drains at the lowest part of the affected areas (middle of Market St and the end of Crown St.) - leading to the lower/wider section of the river beyond the aqueduct?

From Andy M

Friday, 13 July 2012

And what was there before blanket bog? Trees!

But we don't have flood records back that far so little indication of heir effectiveness.

Sealable doors would be a good start - a government grant + flood insurance to make it practicable?

From Phil M

Friday, 13 July 2012

It is a good point about the hills ability to soak up the water being eroded. Its also true below the moors but above the town.

Dodnaze has a channelled watercourse above it that feeds into a storm drain on the bridleway up to Lane-ends, this used to be overgrown and the water was slowed down and had the ability to soak away. It has recently been cleaned out as far as Seed Hill where it was channelled into the middle of the bridleway. Result is a massive amount of water channelled down at high speed. No-ones fault, just the way it is.

Also, fields are being utilised by smallholders and the old water courses across fields are being dug out, unblocked and in some instances, encased on massive industrial drainpipes, this means no soakage at all and 100% of the water is channelled over the valley edge and onto Hebden Bridge.. More thought is needed as to how this is done [Look at the result opposite Station Road on Monday] If it is to happen [and I assume its the new land owners choice] then the Council will need to stump up the money to channel all the way to the river..

From Andy M

Monday, 16 July 2012

I don't think advocating a low level of maintenance on drainage channels etc will get veryfar. There's been plenty of criticism around aimed at 'the Council'/ Yorkshire water/ landowners etc for not mainataining watercourses!

From Phil M

Monday, 16 July 2012

Not advocating anything here, just pointing out that it needs to be a fully joined up approach and at the moment its not. As the channels get cleared in part and as fields are bought up to keep animals and the water courses are piped or opened up all these things cause a knock-on effect, either half way up the hillside or down in Hebden.

The house owners or landowners only really clear 'their bit' and to be honest, who can blame them? However, this needs to be part of a joined up approach or what happened last Monday will become more common!!

From Rob Blake

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Although I work in Hebden, I live down the river in Brearley. We escaped flooding by centimetres, once from the river and then again during the infamous 'cloudburst' episode last Monday.

What worries me is that any attempt to prevent flooding in Hebden and Tod will just push the problem further downstream to Mytholmroyd, Brearley and Luddendenfoot.

I'm not saying we shouldn't try to help Tod and Hebden, I'm just saying that pushing the problem down to us is not the answer.

On that note, I was wondering about the bank along the side of Brearley playing fields. I understand that Calder High needs the fields for sports, but considering that the fields are flooded anyway, wouldn't it be better to just remove the bank and let the fields flood (and then drain) fully, thus giving the river somewhere extra to go at peak levels?

From Reg Slater

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

I too have often wondered about this playing field. It appears to be at river level this side of the banking, and seems to be under water quite often. It was obviously breached during the recent floods and is littered with flood detritus, including marooned tree trunks and pieces of timber, and currently smells like a sewer.

It looks like a natural flood plain, which has been reclaimed for use as school playing fields by bulldozing the earth to form the raised banking. It is far from ideal for this purpose, and must be a source of despair for the unlucky groundsman. Water must seep through the earth bank and collect on these pitches when the river level rises, or even just after heavy rain. The bank prevents natural run off as well as preventing the river over-flow at full spate.

It would be interesting to know how many weeks a year it is actually playable on.

From Keith Wilson

Thursday, 16 August 2012

In response to Guy and Dave's comments above, Treesponsibility have no plan or desire to plant trees on the peat bogs above Hebden Bridge. Peat bogs do far more to store carbon and reduce run off than woodland can. I have however been up to Walshaw Estate a few times recently and have been sickened to see the current land management practice there. There are drainage ditches across the top of the bog, every 10 or 20 metres. The bog is dry! After what must be one of the wettest summers ever you can walk across the top of Walshaw Dean Estate and not get your feet wet. There are Blanket Bog indicator species such as cotton grasses but the sphagnum moss is hard to find, and dying where it exists at all. An immediate improvement to our flash flooding problems would be to infill these grips, and remove all the pipes that run along the new (illegal?) tracks used to drive grouse shooters up there and restore the damage done to this internationally important habitat and local flood defence resource.

Sphagnum moss and peat together hold vast amounts of rainfall and slowly release it into the naturally occurring streams and aquifers. When the peat dries out, the mosses die, the peat erodes (emitting CO2 at alarming rates) and the risk of flooding increases.

Richard Bannister, the landowner and Walshaw Estate Ltd should be fined and forced to pay for the restoration works. Simply infilling the drains would lead to rapid improvement, as has been seen on peat bogs in other areas, such as the Peak District.

Or, we could carry on as we are and let the privileged class continue with their "sport" of shooting wildlife, and get used to mopping out our homes and businesses.

From Andrew B

Friday, 17 August 2012

"Flash floods", "Freak Cloud Burst", both terms we heard when Hebden flooded - Walshaw moor would not have held that water!

Most of the water was washing down the hillside from Old Town, Dodd Naze and Pecket Well - all below Wadsworth Moor.

Wadsworth Parish Council are looking for anyone who has a knowledge of local land drainage as many residents, particularly those who have lived here long enough, have noticed a big difference in water flowing from Wadsworth Moor.

The issue is that many people buy 'derelict' barns/farms/cottages and rennovate them, with them they acquire land- these are people who move or remove drains without the knowledge of the impact this will have.

Since Bog Eggs (now very unsuitably called Allswell Farm!) was purchased and developed into Hebden Bridge Equestrian Centre, every time it rains, water washes off the moor along with other debris, down Walker Lane, down the village green affecting the properties on Old Town Mill Lane and, if the rain is as heavy as it has been, everyone below Bog Eggs.

From Zilla Brown

Friday, 17 August 2012

People who have been flooded are upset and worried and are looking round for help wherever and in what way they can find it. However, the recent heavy rain was an act of god, a natural phenomenon if you prefer, albeit an extreme one. It looks like more and more rain is going to fall as time goes by and the only thing we can do is all be as well prepared as possible.

Now I'm not talking about burning on the estates here that's for another thread but by saying if only the moors had more moss/ better drainage this would not be happening, or that individual landowners are destroying the old drains or not maintaining the land correctly is avoiding the essential truth. The rain falls on them too and comes down from higher up, who are they going to blame? I dare say they were flooded too at the same time, we all saw it on You Tube.

The fact is that the quantity of rain that fell was so unbelievably huge one doubts whether enough remedial work of any kind on the moors could prevent that amount of water running quickly off the hills, then gravity doing the rest. But it's always useful to have someone to blame of course, isn't it?

From Maureen Brian

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Just by walking about you can see that this landscape, this watershed, has been managed for centuries. Sometimes you see a well-maintained culvert doing its job. Sometimes you see just the ghost of a water management system. Either could be 400 years old. And each bit joins up to the next!

Maybe the rain of June and July was a one-off or maybe it was part of a pattern of increasingly extreme weather events. Either way, the effects were exacerbated by failures of a drainage system which was not understood and had not always been well maintained.

So, if we are talking practical I'll be pushing for proper mapping, readily available information to both public and planning officers and a bit of enforcement so that the "human idiocy" element may be taken out of future rainstorms.

From John Knapp

Sunday, 19 August 2012

In response to Maureen Brian, we may have to re-invent the wheel. I was told that when local government re-organisation took place in 1974, the meticulous mapping of works to drains etc was handed over from our old Tod Borough Council to the new Authority. The new Authority decided they didn't want all this old paperwork and chucked it away.

Welcome to modern times.

From Julie C

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Anyone who wants to see a beautiful culvert in the process of repair walk up the lane towards the Hare and Hounds, Lane Ends, from Sandygate. The drainage here must have been well and truly blocked before the storm, resulting in serious damage to the road, homes and walls nearby.

Maybe also time to reopen and clean up the two enormous culverts running under Stubbing Holme and exiting behind the Children's Centre at Hebden Vale. They run from just above the footbridge at Bankfoot and can be seen, closed off, on the left hand upstream wall if you stand on the bridge. To see where they now come out look over the wall from the canal bank just before the scrapyard. Some work was done on them about 30 years back after a partial collapse.

These tunnels used to be cleaned out yearly when the mills they originally fed were closed, they are now totally blocked up, but working again might save Wireform, Hebden Vale and the rest of the Stubbings area from some of the water.