A massive scheme has started to harness nature in a bid to stop homes and businesses from being deluged in areas vulnerable to flooding.

Parts of picturesque Calder Valley in West Yorkshire such as Hebden Bridge have been devastated by flooding, never more so than in the Boxing Day disaster of 2015.

Now a £2.6m natural flood management scheme has started led by the National Trust to help protect Hebden Bridge and other areas near moorland such as Todmorden in the Calder Valley and Marsden in the Colne Valley near Huddersfield.

The aim is to reduce the risk of flooding to more than 3,000 homes and businesses across the three areas.   

The work at Hardcastle Crags near Hebden Bridge and Wessenden Valley, part of Marsden Moor - both cared for by the National Trust - and Gorpley Reservoir above Halifax looked after by Yorkshire Water and the Woodland Trust will use a combination of natural projects to slow the flow of water along the Colne and Calder river catchments. 

The scheme includes the planting of 151 hectares of new woodland at Gorpley Reservoir and in the Wessenden Valley the restoration of 85 hectares of peat bogs, heath and Molinia (moor grass) and the construction of over 650 “leaky dams.”   

More than 3,000 metres of fascines (bundles of brushwood) will also be dug in to help stabilise stream banks and slopes and new areas of land will be fenced for grazing by sheep and cattle.

Craig Best, countryside manager for the National Trust in West Yorkshire, says: “Traditional flood alleviation schemes have focused primarily on delivering hard infrastructures such as flood defence walls to protect the places where people live. However, there is increasing recognition of the role natural flood management can play to reduce the impacts of flooding on communities while delivering key benefits for the natural environment.

“Although natural techniques are not considered to be the single solution to reducing flood risk they are increasingly recognised as playing a significant role alongside more traditional approaches.

“The combination of work we’re planning here of both new habitat creation and landscape restoration will, once things have become established, help absorb significant amounts of water to help slow the flow of water heading downstream towards towns and villages when we experience heavy rain.”

Many people in the areas have traditional anti-flood devices and a typical example is the FloodSax sandless sandbag devised and manufactured by Huddersfield company Environmental Defence Systems (EDS) Ltd.

This alternative sandbag is part of the Watermark Calderdale scheme with a proportion of the proceeds from those sold going into an emergency fund which will help people immediately should the Calder Valley fall victim to severe flooding again.

EDS managing director Richard Bailey said: “Many businesses have signed up to the scheme which is absolutely brilliant and means there is now a substantial resilience fund available should the worst happen again. The 2015 floods were absolutely devastating for parts of our area right along the Calder Valley from Todmorden and Hebden Bridge right down to Brighouse and Elland.”