I have been away from Lancaster for the last few weeks and was unable to access phone signal, the internet and news. I returned to Lancaster this past weekend and was shocked to learn about the recent local flooding events. I picked up last week’s Lancaster Guardian and read about the damage the floods had caused to local homes; the frustration local residents felt at not being heard by the local authority; the pleas for drainage issues to be dealt with before new houses are built, and the accusation that the Bay Gateway may be responsible for localised flooding events.
You may be wondering why I am writing about flooding in a food-themed column? The answer is simple: intense rainfall events are predicted to become more common with climate change. Unless we drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and start holistically planning for these rainfall events (taking into account the flow of water across whole watersheds), flooding and the damage caused by floods is going to become a more common issue. Not only does flooding affect homes, but it can affect farmland and food production. This in turn can have an impact of the cost of food.
For example, Claver Hill community farm in Lancaster has been struggling with drainage issues over the past year. Following last Wednesday’s storm a pop-up lake appeared on its land, complete with ducks! Wetter soils can lead to root crops (such as carrots, potatoes and parsnips) rotting, and can increase plant pests and diseases. In response to these drainage issues, Claver Hill’s members are starting to seek advice from a range of local farmers and experts in order to create a holistic plan for dealing with more frequent and intense rainfall events in the future. One local farmer consulted is Rod Everett from Backsbottom Farm in Roeburndale.
Rod has been running a ‘slow the flow’ campaign over the last year which advocates the use of natural flood management techniques in slowing the flow of surface water following rainfall events. As part of this work Rod has hosted a river festival and has run a workshop for farmers on natural flood management techniques. Check dams, swales, the restoration of blanket bog, mob grazing and the planting of trees are just some of the methods that Rod has experimented with and can be used to reduce the risk of flooding. It would be great to see some of these techniques being used more widely as part of a holistic plan for flood management in Lancaster District.