Slow the Flow Review of the Year – 2021

Thank you to everyone who has supported our work over the course of 2021. Even with Covid-19 still in our midst, we have had a very busy year as we continue to develop new schemes, partnerships, ideas, projects and initiatives to reduce flood risk here in the Calder Valley.  

It is also fair to say that the work our volunteers and volunteer Trustees do, inspires other communities and groups around the UK, to use natural processes to combat their own flood risk.  These relationships are vitally important because collectively, they all contribute to Natural Flood Management (NFM) and Sustainable Drainage Solutions (SuDS) which are now being recognised and used to reduce flood risk in our cities, towns, villages, and rural communities. 

One of our highlights this year was the appointment of 3 brand new amazing Trustees who we appointed to bolster and support the work we do.  We have two Trustees (Andrew and Paul) with an educational brief who are working on materials for schools and educators and a Trustee (Roseanne) helping strengthen fundraising and development.  We are delighted to have them onboard and after only a few short months they have all made a significant impact on our work.  

Here are some of the other highlights of the last 12 months: 


Flood sirens sound again as the Calder Valley braces itself for Storm Christoph. The Environment Agency issues 11 flood warnings for the area and warns communities to put flood plans into action. When the torrential rainfall moves on, flood damage is limited but the psychological impact of the threat of another major flooding event is widely felt. 


We set up an annual bursary to support MA students researching natural flood management in partnership with the University of Leeds and Environment Agency. The bursary is named after Penny Eastwood, aka Dongria Kondh, our wonderful friend and founder of Treesponsibility who sadly passed away later in the year.  This was a fitting memorial to one of the most influential people we have known, and we are delighted to commit to supporting this bursary for the next few years.   


Do volunteers have a role in natural flood management? ‘Of course, we do!’ is our message to FloodExpo21, a major annual gathering of flood experts. To be effective, NFM strategies must be widely deployed across communities. Later, we publish a report based on our pioneering interactive ‘opportunity mapping’ study, which shows that NFM and SuDS have the potential to attenuate almost 2 million cubic metres of water across Calderdale.  


Tracey Brabin, the successful candidate in the first Mayoral elections in West Yorkshire, pays a visit to Hardcastle Crags to hear about our work, demonstrating the increasing strategic importance of flood resilience regionally.  


New Mayor of Todmorden Councillor Pat Taylor chooses us as her Charity of the Year. We are delighted as it gives us an opportunity to spread our reach and message beyond Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd where we have been focused to date.


Volunteering resumes at Hardcastle Crags after a 16 month break due to Covid. We are bashing balsam, an invasive non-native species, which takes over riverbanks and woodlands reducing biodiversity and increasing flooding risk.   More good news – Slow the Flow is awarded the Queens Award for Volunteer Services – the MBE of volunteering – a tribute to the hundreds of local people who have volunteered with us since we were set up in 2016.  


Jude Walker, an 11-year-old climate change activist, sets off on a 230 mile walk from Hebden Bridge to London and hands in a petition with over 100,000 signatures to Downing Street, calling for the introduction of a carbon tax.  

Meanwhile, a wonderful permanent exhibition of our work, featuring the film ‘Slowing The Flow Together’, opens in Gibson Mill in Hardcastle Crags, thanks to the support of the National Trust. 


Leaky dam building at Hardcastle Crags resumes at last, with Halifax MP Holly Lynch joining the first volunteer group. So far, we have built over 750 leaky dams on the hillsides above Hebden Bridge during colourful, intergenerational weekend events, which boost not just climate resilience, but mental health too! 


It’s challenge event time! Jonnie Cunningham, head of operations at flood company, Watertight, completes a gruelling sponsored 9-day cycle from Lands End to John O’ Groats, while local councillor Josh Fenton Glynn runs not one, but two marathons, to raise money for us, St Augustine’s and the Community Foundation For Calderdale.  

Together they have contributed an amazing £6K in donations to support our work.   


As world leaders gather in Glasgow for Cop26, we launch a media campaign calling on communities to play their part tackling climate change – a story picked up by local, regional, and national media. “People living and working in the Calder Valley know from direct experience how vital it is that world leaders make real progress tackling climate change,” says our chair Bede Mullen. “But communities must take action too”. 


We participate in a public meeting on NFM in Todmorden town hall organised by the Mayor of Todmorden. Amongst other groups present at the event, which is well attended, are Calderdale Council, the Environment Agency, and Todmorden Flood Group. Our blog then features excellent guest posts on mitigating flood risk from two of the speakers: Jane from the Calder Rivers Trust on soil health, and Christina from Treesponsibility on trees.    


The board of trustees meets for the final time in 2021 making exciting plans for 2022 and beyond. We look forward to working with supporters and public, private and community partners to promote NFM and fight back against climate change.  

We launch an exciting new piece of citizen science at Hardcastle Crags NT, where we have installed fixed point photography posts – we look forward to receiving your photos of leaky dams! At Slow The Flow, we are all volunteers, and your input is really important to us – the more people that get involved with a scheme like this, the better it will work to help us understand the impact of NFM interventions. 

If you would like to get involved with us at Slow The Flow, contact us at or visit our website