Borders Farmers Show the Way in Natural Flood Control – SAC Consulting and Tweed Forum Event

Published Tuesday, 23rd October 2012 in SAC Consulting news

An event exploring how farmers can help with flood prevention will take place at Crookston Farm, Heriot on Wednesday 14th November.

Flooding incidents in Borders towns and villages seem to be increasing. They are damaging, costly and soul destroying for residents. Now specialists from SAC Consulting, a Division of SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College) are looking at ways of slowing down the flow of surface water run off.

As Newspaper and media reports have highlighted there is little doubt that, across Scotland, weather patterns are changing and the Borders has suffered along with others. Very often unseasonably severe rainfall is followed by flash flooding, catching both the public and emergency authorities off guard and unprepared. Rural communities surrounded by farmland and forestry are asking what can be done to hold back the flow of water often rushing down hill?

SAC Consulting has joined Tweed Forum and local farmers in investigating the potential of what is called Natural Flood Management (NFM), where local land managers can play their part in protecting communities. These environmentally friendly steps will never solve all the flooding problems but they can lessen the damage to land or property and contribute to reducing the flood peak and increasing community resilience to damaging events.

One example is on the Gala Water where, with funding from Scottish Borders Council, they have helped arrange a variety of measures on a number of different farms. Hugh Chalmers of Tweed Forum says:

‘It is about getting the best deal for the individual farming system as well as other benefits. Restoring natural habitats can reduce the effect of extreme events on the farm as well as farms and communities downstream.  It can also deliver other benefits, like the protection of livestock, an increase in riverside plants and animals, better fishing and locking up carbon, to name but a few.’

Farmers who have already tried out some of these ideas are Jim and Graeme Sinclair who farm at Crookston, near Heriot. They are hosting the awareness event starting at 10.00am on Wednesday 14th November, just off the A7 at the Gilston turn off. Well known SRUC speakers like sheep specialist John Vipond will join colleagues from Tweed Forum and SEPA to give advice. The Sinclair’ will show what are doing on their farm and describe their work with others to promote what land managers can do to help slow the flow of rain water from farmed land, high in the Gala Water catchment. 

Graeme says ‘The steps we are taking to reduce surface water run-off rates will hopefully have a positive effect on reducing potentially damaging flood water levels in Stow and Galashiels. At the same time they benefit our livestock management and also the farm environment. But to create a lasting effect the approach needs to be co-ordinated.’

The free event is open to all. It will demonstrate various techniques used to slow the flow. For example, fencing off cleuchs in upland areas and planting native woodland to prevent stock trampling and encourage deeper soil layers. Fencing also keeps stock out of wet areas that harbour the snails linked to liver fluke infection. Different stocking levels create different grass sward heights that absorb more water. Redesigning ditches and forest drains means they don’t carry flood water downstream so quickly, while ponds not only hold back surface run off but provide drinking water and sporting potential.

SRUC acknowledges the support of Scottish Government through  its Climate Change and Diffuse Pollution Advisory Activity Programme.

While the event is free it includes a lunch and it would help the organisers with the catering arrangements if those planning to attend register by phoning the SAC Consulting coordinator Val Angus on 01835 823322 or e-mailing Val.Angus@sac.co.uk. They are reminded to come prepared with boots and wet weather gear and be ready for a 2km walk.

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