The Penny Eastwood Bursary – Sophie’s Blog

A new annual bursary has been set up to support a Masters student investigating natural flood
management. The Bursary is named in recognition of the work of the founder of Treesponsibility and The Source Partnership, Penny Eastwood, otherwise known as Dongria Kondh. More HERE.

The bursary will be funded by Calderdale Council, the Environment Agency, National Trust and Slow The Flow and will support up to two students per year. The first bursary has been awarded to Sophie Tankard, who is already studying the effects of natural flood management in a small catchment after being inspired by her previous volunteer work with Slow The Flow. 

As part of her Masters degree, Sophie will analyse the effectiveness of the natural flood interventions which have already been installed in the Calder Valley and help inform Slow The Flow’s future projects.

Sophie writes for us about her work and what this bursary means to her. 

“I am a postgraduate student at Leeds University studying a masters by research. My interest in flood management started when I joined Slow the Flow in the summer before I went to Keele University to study for a degree in geography. I was invited to join one of the Sunday events which involved gully stuffing and the creation of leaky dams. There was a real community spirit with children and families being hands on with the implementing of natural flood management techniques. I had previously never heard of the term ‘natural flood management’ before meeting Slow the Flow. I enjoyed my time volunteering with the group but then I moved away from home to study. 

During my initial time at Keele, I didn’t really think much about natural flood management and flooding/water management were not covered as topics of the degree. During my second year, we were asked to produce a research plan for our dissertation which would be completed in the final year. At the time I was not sure what topic I wished to research. I was advised by tutors to pick a topic which I was passionate about. This is when I remembered my time with Slow the Flow and the concept on ‘natural flood management’ (NFM). I decided to do my own research into NFM, reading through the current scientific papers and journals to understand the science behind the practical application. I found that there was little and fragmented research into NFM but large amounts of anecdotal evidence.

Large institutions such as the Environment Agency were already implementing NFM schemes in catchments across the country. I saw this was an opportunity to create new and needed research into NFM. I wanted my dissertation to be something that furthered scientific understanding and also produced findings that would not just sit on a shelf but which could be used in a practical sense by charities, communities and large bodies to bring about change.

I decided that my dissertation would focus on the effectiveness of NFM on a small catchment. I would produce a hydrological report to address the flood reduction properties of NFM and complete interviews with important stakeholders to understand the reasons why NFM was chosen. I finally would look at the wider benefits of NFM by giving out questionnaires for community members to participate. These findings would then be analysed. I used Hebden Bridge as my study site because of how much NFM implementation had already occurred there. 

The more I read and researched, the more I become fascinated with flood management, specifically NFM. I started to broaden my understanding of ecosystems services and the impact that managing our land properly can have on a catchment. I realised that this area of research was extremely significant for reducing the risks of climate change and furthering our understanding of the possible impacts NFM can have on a catchment. I finished my undergraduate degree in 2020 and received the Elsie Beaver prize for my dissertation. The prize is awarded for the best piece of individual fieldwork submitted by a final year Geography student.

After the success of my dissertation and the new findings which required further research, I decided to complete a masters by research at Leeds University. My project is to focus further on NFM. As part of this research I was asked by Slow the Flow to analyse data collected from sites in Hebden Bridge where NFM measures have been implemented. The resultant report will be used as part of my thesis. Slow the Flow will be able to use my work to measure the effectiveness of NFM strategies currently implemented in the catchment. It is hoped that this will help Slow the Flow to prepare, manage and plan for future implementation of NFM.

The data findings will feed into questionnaires and interviews to further understand the impact of NFM on a catchment. The overall findings will be then be combined to create a ‘framework’ which will show the effect NFM can have on a catchment.

This research will further our understanding of: How effective NFM is in flood events; How NFM interventions react to rainfall events; What impact NFM has downstream; The multiple benefits of NFM; The impact of NFM on the catchment and the community. This work will be published in scientific journals which will add to the growing global knowledge of NFM techniques. 

I have been lucky enough to be selected to be the first recipient of the Penny Eastwood bursary. This bursary is to help support a masters by research student who is undertaking research in the field of NFM. This will personally help me fund my course costs and will allow me to create a project in collaboration with Slow the Flow. I am deeply humbled to be selected for the Penny Eastwood bursary and I hope to create informative research for Slow the Flow.”