Slowing the flow for people and wildlife in the Soar Valley

Narborough Bog is part of a new project in the upper Soar Valley that will utilise Natural Flood Management (NFM) techniques to help protect local people from flooding and create valuable new wildlife habitats in the process.

This is a national pilot programme led by the Environment Agency and a range of partner organisations including Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, to undertake monitoring and research the effectiveness of Natural Flood Management features across the landscape.

What is Natural Flood Management?

Natural Flood Management is all about working with natural processes to reduce flood risk and involves implementing a wide variety of measures that help to protect, restore and emulate the natural functions of river catchments and floodplains. The main aim is to reduce water from a flood by holding it back for as long as possible, allowing more to penetrate into the ground or evaporate and delaying the arrival of large volumes of water downstream.

There are a wide range of NFM measures that can be used in to manage the flow of water through the landscape. Some act to reconnect rivers to their floodplains, with others such as tree planting, the creation of ‘leaky’ barriers, digging of ponds, removing culverts and restoring meandering rivers, store and slow the progression of flood flows.

Once NFM features are installed, they can lead to a wide range of multiple benefits other than reducing flood risk, including habitat creation, prevention of soil erosion, improvements in water quality and increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change, to name just a few.

Narborough Bog

Narborough Bog is one of 4 landholdings taking part in the new project and work started this autumn to create a number of NFM features close to the banks of the river. For example, felling a small number of trees and carefully securing them across the span of the river and within the adjacent floodplain, so that they act to encourage spill to the floodplain, and slow and hold water when heavy rain occurs.

Through these types of interventions, habitats will retain water for much longer periods and will attract a wider variety of species to areas of wet woodland on the site. Aquatic plants and insects will initially benefit from this work, and a wider range of other species including bats, birds and toads in the future.

Ben Devine, Conservation Officer for the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust says:

“The Trust’s involvement in this project is centred on our Narborough Bog nature reserve with the aim of rewetting large areas of habitat across the site for the benefit of wetland wildlife. As a result of historic changes in hydrology and pressures from surrounding development such as roads and railway lines, Narborough Bog has dried-up significantly over the years and we are delighted to be working with the Environment Agency and others to improve the watercourse for the benefit of wildlife and local communities downstream”

Alex McDonald, Project Manager for the Environment Agency says:

“Working within Narborough Bog is a great opportunity to pilot natural flood management and to really understand the multiple benefits it can deliver. We’ve been working closely with Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust to make sure our designs marry with the ethos of the nature reserve and we hope that we will be able to show through our monitoring that we have been able to benefit the ecology of the reserve as well as reducing flood risk downstream.”

Narborough Bogs is one of four sites in the Leicester area where this approach is being piloted. At the other sites ponds are being created to store water and tree planting used to slow overland flows. Each site will be monitored with changes in water levels and ecology closely scrutinised to see how effective the NFM measures are.

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