With dangerous wildfires raging in Greece and the US, and after the devastating floods in Germany and Belgium last month, the impacts of climate change have never been more apparent.
Climate change is a threat to our planet – and animal and human life – and it’s happening now. We also need to look close to home, and do everything we can to future-proof against flooding.
The Somerset Levels and Moors make up over 60,000 hectares and are one of the lowest areas in the UK – in fact nearly 20% of Somerset lies beneath sea level.
Historically this extremely flat land, nestled between the Mendip and Quantock hills, has been drained for agricultural and residential purposes.
Many of us will remember the flooding back in 2014. Many people had to be rescued and evacuated from their homes as they were cut off by flood water.
At Mendip we are very involved with leading the work to map out potential flooding spots. We are also supporting interesting remedial works, working with partners on natural flood management, such as the planting trees and creating ponds on top of the Mendip Hills.
One of our main partners is the Somerset Rivers Authority which acts to help manage persistent flooding issues. It was launched after the 2014 floods and manages a 20-Year Flood Action Plan.
Some important aspects of this plan relate to enhancements of the River Sowy and King’s Sedgemoor Drain. Over the wet winter of 2019-2020 there were encouraging signs that the work is paying off, which is very good news indeed.
An important defence against flooding is through the planting of trees. Trees help reduce flooding in many ways, whilst also capturing carbon from the atmosphere. In urban areas for instance, trees reduce surface water run-off by 80%, compared to hard asphalt surfaces.
Tree planting is an important priority at Mendip. Earlier this year we provided additional funding to the Mendip Hills AONB to support the planting of 500+ trees in the district. It is the right approach for us as a council to work with the right partners such as the AONB so that we ensure the right trees are planted in the right places, to not only support wildlife and sequester carbon, but to prevent flooding.
We are also working with parishes to plant trees. Last year we worked with Binegar parish council to support their flood prevention scheme. Native species such as Oak, Sycamore, Beech, Hazel and Goat Willow were donated by Mendip, fitting well with other existing trees in the area.
We need to tackle flood prevention and climate change together. And these are perfect examples of how working together with parishes and external bodies can deliver for our communities.
I am certainly heartened to see how much work is going on across the district, also by community groups, to increase tree planting and look forward to working more with communities to get more trees in the ground.
If you have any questions or would like more information, do get in touch on my email: [email protected] or via my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke.
Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council
Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].