We’re working with farmers and landowners across the Flimby area to develop landscape features inspired by nature that aim to help reduce flood risk to Flimby and provide other environmental benefits for watercourses and the surrounding land. 

The issue: Flooding in Flimby

Flimby has a long record of flooding from Penny Gill and Flimby Gill (Barrel Arch) which flow through culverts under the village and railway embankment before discharging out at sea. These culverts can become overwhelmed in in times in heavy rainfall, leading to flooding of houses in the village. Flimby is also vulnerable to surface water flooding. Flimby was badly affected by flooding in December 2015 when 100 properties were inundated and roads became impassable.

What we’re doing

We’re working with farmers and landowners in the catchment area above Flimby to develop new features inspired by nature that will store water in the landscape for longer after storms, with the aim of reducing peak river levels downstream. The NFM project is part of a wider partnership flood scheme for Flimby, being led by Cumbria Council and the Environment Agency.

We’re putting a range of measures in place, including:

  • tree planting
  • creating and restoring kested hedgerows
  • improving soil
  • installing leaky barriers
  • increasing water storage on the floodplain

These measures complement hard engineering and flood resilience measures carried out by other agencies and organisations. The combined impact of lots of small measures across the catchment could have a significant effect on flood risk. We’re keen that these measures don’t adversely affect the farm business and that they improve water quality and habitat.

Project progress

We have worked with the majority of farmers and landowners across the catchment to deliver a wide range of landscape features. Work took place at numerous sites and included:

  • 81 leaky dams
  • An embankment to temporarily hold back water in times of heavy rainfall
  • 10 hectares of woodland restoration
  • Over 3 km of kested hedgerow planting and restoration (hedgerows planted on small embankments which enhances their flood management benefits)
  • several hectares of soil aeration

Leaky dams (L) and kested hedgerow (R)

Case study: Leaky barriers

Leaky barriers constructed in streams and ditches are designed to hold back flood water within the channel or encourage water to spill onto the banks, reducing the downstream flood peak by temporarily storing water and slowing the flow. Leaky barriers are designed to replicate naturally fallen trees and create a variety of habitats and flow conditions. They are set above normal stream level, so normal flows and fish movement are not impeded.

A total of 59 leaky barriers in two different designs have been built upstream of Flimby. These will work together to slow high flows, increasing the time it takes for storm water to pass downstream, thereby reducing the risk of flooding.

‘Horse jump’ leaky barrier (L) and ‘kerplunk’ leaky barrier (R)

Evaluating success

We want to know how effective these measures will be as a key aim of the DEFRA funding is to increase the national evidence base and better understand the role of NFM in flood risk management. We’ve been working with Lancaster University Q-NFM project to monitor all our interventions. In a storm in March 2021 that almost flooded properties, the leaky dams reduced the peak water levels by 3.5 %.

Funders and partners

The first phase which ran from 2019 to 2021 was funded by Defra. The second phase of the project from 2021 to 2022 is funded by Cumbria County Council as part of the wider flood alleviation scheme for the village. 

Work in this catchment was prioritised by West Cumbria Catchment Partnership to address multiple issues. We’re working with many of our catchment partners including the Environment Agency, Flimby Flood Action Group, Cumbria County Council, the Woodland Trust, Farmer Network, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Cumbria Woodlands.

Want to find out more?

If you’re a landowner in the catchment and are interested in NFM measures on your land or are just keen to find out more, please contact Caitlin Pearson on 017687 75429 or caitlin@westcumbriariverstrust.org