A UNIQUE guide for farmers and land managers on natural flood management measures has been published by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA).

The free guide – a response to the devastation wreaked by Storm Desmond in December 2015 – shows how Dales farmers can protect their land from flood damage and contribute to the region’s flood defence system.

It has been put together by the YDNPA, Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and North Yorkshire County Council, with support from the Environment Agency and Natural England.

Helen Keep, YDNPA senior farm conservation officer, said: “Farmers saw the severe impact of flooding on cities such as Carlisle, Leeds and York and asked how they could help.

“If, after heavy rainfall, we can slow the flow of rivers that rise within the Yorkshire Dales through natural flood management measures, then a number of our region’s towns and cities will be better protected.

“Our aim is for every farmer and land manager in the Yorkshire Dales National Park to have a copy of the guide.”

Some measures benefit both flood defences and agricultural production. Research in Bishopdale, for instance, showed soil compaction was more widespread than previously thought. Reducing soil compaction would both decrease run-off and improve grass and root growth.

“Other measures may need financial support to make them worthwhile. Grants may be available to fund some of the measures – so, please get in touch. In the longer term, we hope that managing land to reduce flooding will become a new source of income for farmers – helping to make their businesses more robust.”

Natural flood management aims to reduce the downstream maximum water height of a flood. The various measures that can be taken to achieve this have been grouped into three levels in the guide, according to their set up and maintenance costs:

Level 1 – measures such as cross drains in farm tracks and planting hedgerows are low cost and easy to install, yet very effective. They require minimum or no consultation with authorities.

Level 2 – measures such as creating an earth bund or a ‘leaky dam’ may require consent and may need contractors’ help to install.

Level 3 – measures such as restoring the connection between a river and its floodplain need detailed planning and design and are usually high cost.

Rita Mercer, of the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, said: “Natural flood management structures do not significantly impact on farming, are typically small in size, and can be considered to be an extension to the farm’s land drainage system. It is a network of these structures, rather than individual features, which can make a difference.”

She said Leeds University research in Coverdale indicated that a combination of simple measures over ten percent of the catchment area could help slow the flow of water during high rainfall events by up to 12 per cent.

Ian McDonell, senior environment officer, at the Environment Agency, said: “The importance of natural flood management is becoming increasingly recognised and this handbook helps to put Yorkshire at the forefront of that thinking.”