Devastation caused by flooding on the Levels in recent years demonstrated the need for joined up land and water management across the whole river catchment, not just the floodplain; every field and every stream can play a part in reducing flood risk.
Together, they are encouraging farmers to ‘slow the flow’ of water from the hills in the upper and lower catchments of the Rivers Parrett, Tone and Brue and build resilience in farm businesses in the lower catchment.
Hills to Levels’ farm advisor, Ben Thorne said: ‘Do you farm in the upper catchment? Are you losing soil on to roads, tracks and into ditches?
‘If so, you are losing one of your most valuable resources and this sediment may be causing siltation in water courses downstream, which is expensive to clean and contributes to flooding.’
To date, Hills to Levels advisors have worked with over 200 farmers on the upper catchment to reduce the flow of water and sediment down the catchment. These include woodland planting to constructing small dams, silt traps and ‘leaky’ ponds.
Ben added: ‘If you farm in the lower catchment, grants are available to help you build resilience against flooding – things such as managing water on your fields, repairing droves or gateways, and specialist advice regarding your farm business. Over 100 farmers have been visited so far.
‘Or you might have something else in mind that you think would help you; we’re interested in helping create a brighter picture for farming into the future.’
The Hills to Levels grants form part of Somerset’s 20 year Flood Action Plan and they are designed to work alongside the enhanced maintenance work now being carried out by the Environment Agency.