Last week saw some very heavy rainfall across Sheffield and Rotherham, with the real risk of flooding in many areas. However, our nature reserves at Kilnhurst Ings and Woodhouse Washlands were able to function as flood storage basins and prevent flood damage in the surrounding areas.
For most of the year these nature reserves are grasslands, but when we have extended periods of heavy rainfall, the rivers which run through these reserves (the Don at Kilnhurst Ings and the Rother at Woodhouse Washlands) can overtop their banks, spilling out on to the surrounding land to form temporary bodies of standing water. In a built-up or intensively farmed area, this flooding could be catastrophic, but here on our nature reserves there is enough space for floodwater to spill out of the river channels and slowly soak into the land.
This is an example of natural processes at work, and historically many of our floodplains – as the name suggests – would have been inundated during the winter months. Land drainage, canalisation and modification of our rivers means that there are now fewer opportunities for rivers to spill on to their floodplains, so in an extreme weather event the excess rainfall can end up flooding built up areas in our towns and cities.
We have been working on both nature reserves to ensure that more water can be held back on the land, installing a system of wet ditches to hold water at Kilnhurst Ings, and earth bunds and shallow scrapes at Woodhouse Washlands to slow down surface water flow. Fortunately for us, managing land for water really does deliver a win-win scenario, since we not only reduce the risk of downstream flooding, but holding more water on the land also provides more opportunities for our threatened wetland wildlife and wading birds.
By becoming a member today you can support us to ensure this vital nature flood management work continues. Use code JanSale21 when joining and you will receive 50% off your first year of membership when joining by direct debit. Become a member here. Together, we really can make an impact on nature and wildlife across Sheffield and Rotherham. Together, we really can make an impact on nature and wildlife across Sheffield and Rotherham.