Slow The Flow – 2023! What another incredible year we have had!

As we head towards the end of our 6th full year at Slow The Flow, our work continues as we continue to develop ways and finding practical solutions of working with Natural Flood Management (NFM), Sustainable Drainage Solutions (SuDS) and other Nature Based Solutions (NBS) to reduce flood risk here in the Calder Valley. 

Photo credit – Sam Townsend

Our work at Hardcastle Crags continues, building yet more leaky woody dams. We continue to work closely with The National Trust to manage this beautiful ancient woodland, which has been instrumental in protecting towns like Hebden Bridge. Since 2016 we have held two weekend volunteering sessions per month (except during the covid pandemic) building leaky dams, digging attenuation basins and creating contour barriers to reduce the flow of rainwater into the river system and lessen the potential for flooding. Over a thousand volunteers have contributed to this massive community effort. 

In addition we have run volunteering sessions for private and public sector organisations wanting to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility.

We have also just started work at Broadhead Clough in Cragg Vale, in collaboration with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, to develop practical solutions to reduce flood risk into Mytholmroyd and further downstream.

Both of these projects will continue into 2024 and beyond, as we seek to find solutions to reduce the effects of our changing climate.   

Calderdale has been very lucky with the weather this year so far, with no major flood events here since February 2020.  Storm Babet, the second named storm of this season, tested us in October; but our work held fast, which helped to protect some of our towns along the Calder Valley.  

The work at Hardcastle Crags, and the numerous other partners’ schemes around Calderdale to reduce flood risk, includes planting of thousands of trees, a growing number of attenuation ponds built, and many other initiatives to reduce flood risk. These have all made a small contribution to reducing our flood risk, and the combined effect is beginning to show.   

Couple that with our newly launched schools education programme, and you can see just how busy our Trustees and other volunteers have been.

New Members of our Team 

Slow The Flow is blessed to have such experienced and engaged people who support our work.  The time and dedication our (entirely voluntary) trustees and other volunteers provide to the community is unparalleled, and we are lucky to have this wealth of knowledge here in Calderdale.  

We are delighted to have a new Trustee on board with us; Andrew Mackintosh. Andrew has lived in the Hebden Bridge area for 30 years and has studied and worked in environmental management for a similar period. He has an MSc in Countryside Management and has worked in a variety of environmental jobs/roles including nature reserve warden, landscape restoration research, farm conservation advisor. Andy currently works for Natural England as a public access and recreation specialist, and is a valuable member of our Management team. 

Our incredible administrator, Tania Blackburn is an enormous asset to us, and has been instrumental in assisting us with our day-to-day admin.  Tania ensures all of our Governance is up to date, manages our meetings, taking and distributing minutes, ensuring actions are completed and ensures we continue to be compliant with being a registered Charity.  We are so glad to have Tania on board – with her doing what she’s good at, it frees up Trustee time to do the things we’re really here for.   

We have a new addition to our communications team, Sam Townsend, who has been one of our longest standing volunteers and now works with us on our Social Media Platforms.  

Sam discovered his love of Geography at school, and then continued his studies at Huddersfield University.  He was then awarded a ‘Masters by Research (MRes) Studentship’ and the Penny Eastwood Bursary in 2021 by the University of Huddersfield.

Sam is one of the reasons we continue to work with young people to develop their skills and knowledge in Natural Flood Management. It is clear to see how young people, like Sam, can develop through education and encouragement to get involved in local community action, and by providing them with opportunities to develop their own careers in NFM, we can give upcoming generations the tools and enthusiasm to continue this important work. 

We also continue to work with Victoria Harrison-Johnstone who works as a Senior Flood Risk Consultant. She has a background in the Environment Agency as a Project Manager helping to deliver important modelling updates which aid in understanding potential flood risk. 

Victoria supports Slow The Flow by reviewing planning applications within the Calder Valley area. With her extensive planning background, she works with us to identify where applications could benefit from our advice, with the ultimate aim being to reduce flood risk within the valley by spreading awareness of even the small changes that can add up to make a big difference in reducing flooding.

You can read more about our work responding to planning applications HERE

So, what else have our Trustees, volunteers and supporters been up to in the last 12 months? 

Slow The Flow were vocal at the Yorkshire Water ‘Your Water, Your Say’ events alongside our sister organisation ‘West Wolds Slow The Flow’ and mentors ‘Slow The Flow Pickering’, in June and November.  It is really important that the community is represented at these critical events held by organisations like Yorkshire Water who make huge decisions on our water supply and sewerage; especially at a time when combined sewer overflow issues are in the spotlight, and can be greatly assisted by NFM and SuDS solutions.  We will continue to attend such events and report back on progress to reduce sewage entering our watercourses, which has been a recent blight on our rivers, coastlines and environment.  

We continue to contribute to the Calderdale Council Climate Action Plan process, mainly via the Land and Nature group, as this shapes the future of our Net Zero ambitions. We have also contributed as members of the CMBC Placemaking SPD community advisory panel, attending several events and meetings across the year, representing the community to influence change and encourage and promote sustainable drainage solutions (SuDS) as an integral part of placemaking in Calderdale. 

Slow The Flow also became an official member of The Community Foundation For Calderdale (CFFC) this year.  As this incredible organisation has provided a huge amount of support to us and many other voluntary groups in Calderdale, we are delighted to reciprocate and support them too. Many charitable organisations simply couldn’t function without the support the CFFC provides.  Slow The Flow were delighted to attend this years Community Spirit Awards and were humbled by so many of the other incredible voluntary organisations in Calderdale. 

In September, some of our Trustees and associates went to visit the beavers at Cropton Forest in North Yorkshire, to learn from nature’s leaky dam creators. Whether beavers could play a part here in Calderdale is one of our most frequently-asked questions. With our steep sided valleys, highly developed and/or protected landscapes, this is a significant challenge, but we remain open-minded about it as an option in the years to come. 

Our Trustees also attend and support many other organisations and partnerships by representing the community at various meetings and events. These include the NFM Operations Group, looking at how Natural Flood Management can continue to be utilised as part of the local flood plan, the White Rose Forest Initiative, connecting those supporting tree planting locally, the Upper Calder Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) group, and the Calder Catchment Partnership, which connects those with an interest in the wider river catchment. 

We also continue to support our friends around the UK who are also passionate about natural flood management, like the wonderful community at Harborough Woodland near Market Harborough.  They are working incredibly hard utilising all sorts of natural schemes and initiatives to reduce flood risk in their rural landscape.  They took inspiration from us back in 2017 and have gone from strength to strength as an amazing organisation, recently celebrating their own Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.  

You can read more about the valuable work at Harborough Woodland HERE

Brearley Fields, Mytholmroyd – In April, our partners’ work to create a wetland nature reserve commenced at Brearley Fields in Mytholmroyd. The project has transformed the former school playing fields into a valuable wetland habitat, increasing floodwater storage on the floodplain of the river Calder.

The wetland nature reserve works with natural processes to enhance naturally managed flood risks. Many small‑scale NFM interventions, taken together, can result in a significant amount of water being temporarily stored, or attenuated, during storm events. Depending on the severity of the flood event, the new wetlands will boost floodwater attenuation by up to 3000m3³. 

Photo Credit – Samuel Townsend

On its own, the impact will be minor, reducing nearby peak flood levels by a couple of centimetres. However, the work is another piece of the slow the flow puzzle, as identified in our ‘Opportunity Mapping’ pilot project

Alongside the work of Slow The Flow, The Environment Agency, The National Trust, Calder Rivers Trust, local landowners, and others in the Calder Valley, will contribute to collectively reducing the scale and damaging effects of future flood events.

More on Brearley Fields can be found HERE

Slow The Flow Launches Education Resources for KS2 and KS3 on Natural Flood Management

Funded by The CFFC, Slow The Flow has developed a range of free teaching resources on NFM for both primary and secondary schools in Calderdale.  

Written by qualified teachers and designed to fit within the KS2 and KS3 Geography curriculum, these resources explore the issue of flooding, increasing the awareness of flood risk, flood related issues and the use of NFM as an option for reducing flood risk. 

These completely free resources are available through the Slow The Flow website and can be delivered by teachers themselves as part of the National Curriculum.  

You can read more about these free teaching resources HERE. 

Fundraising for Slow The Flow

It is fair to say that Slow The Flow would simply not exist without the extraordinary financial generosity of our community.  We receive donations from various organisations and individuals which allow us to continue our invaluable work.  

This year, we are asking our friends and supporters to consider us, if you are making a charitable donation in lieu of Christmas cards.

If you would like to make a donation, please visit HERE. Thank you. 

Supportive Partnerships 

Lastly, we must give a huge a shout out to our supportive friends who very kindly donate regularly to us through sales, time, expertise or other resources.  

Friendly Soap; based in Mytholmroyd, donate a percentage of their sales to us through a number of local retailers.  You can read more about this partnership HERE. 

HebTroCo; kindly provide us with free secure storage space, in addition to regular financial donations. You can find out more about them HERE.

Shredz; a local clothing retailer, has also designed an exclusive t-shirt for us with £10 from every shirt being donated to us at Slow The Flow.  You can read more about this wonderful fundraising initiative HERE

2B Landscape Consultancy Ltd; has provided pro-bono work via West Wolds Slow The Flow, to develop the resources that they have shared with us on our NFM webpages. You can find out more about them HERE.

A beautiful new book of poetry, “To Hills and Waterfalls: a Californian in Calderdale” is donating some of the profits to us. You can read more about it HERE.

In November, the Moonfull Masquerade held a Ball at The Trades Club and raised nearly £1000 between Slow The Flow and Forus Tree.  We are delighted by this and are so grateful for everyone who attended his unique event.  More information on the Moonfull Masquerade can be found HERE.

We also have a growing number of generous individuals who have set up a monthly donation through our LocalGiving page, or donated as one-offs following challenge events, for which we continue to be most grateful. 

Thank you all!

Well, that’s all folks………………. until 2024! 

That’s it for another year.  We’ll be back in 2024 with more activities and work planned to slow the flow of floodwater through nature-based solutions.  

We will be starting work in earnest at Broadhead Clough in Cragg Vale in January.

We have a visit to The Houses of Parliament planned in March to meet and lobby Members of Parliament.  Given the financial pressures our public services like the Environment Agency are under, cost effective solutions like NFM are now more important than ever to reduce flood risk.  We will continue to work on educating people at all levels to promote this work to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

Our website continues to grow at a huge pace with blogs, practical solutions and ideas for how you can slow the flow yourself at home, in work and in the community.   

If you have any blogs, case studies or stories you would like to share, please contact us HERE.