Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A green and pleasant land?

There has been much suffering and damage caused this year by flooding, both locally here in Yorkshire and elsewhere in the UK.

Going back many years, we lived in Sinnington, bordering the River Seven.

Idyllic, isn't it?

What was then the Yorkshire River Authority came every year and cleared the river course, coppicing willows and cutting back brash which had rooted over the previous year. When this body was swallowed by the Environment Agency that annual housekeeping ceased. 

Was it coincidence then that the village suffered the worst floods in its recent history after that? 

Although we were lucky enough not to be flooded our house was marooned by flood water which was fast flowing, turgid and unpleasant. The back flow into neighbours' homes was indescribable, with water oozing through walls and floors as the water inexorably found its way in. 

The problem of foul water in their homes took months to recover from, in terms of ruined fittings and furniture, re-wiring, re-flooring, re-plastering and last but not least getting rid of the noxious smell. 

Not so idyllic then.

Having seen at first hand the devastation caused to ordinary people's lives I have enormous sympathy for those who remain affected by flooding.

Whilst not suggesting the Environment Agency is totally responsible for the 2014 Somerset levels nightmare, I feel there are questions to be asked.

What was their process of monitoring river courses, ensuring these were free flowing, and able to carry the anticipated volume of water ?

Were houses built on flood plains, and if so, why and how was planning granted?

It's not just the big obvious issues which contribute to flooding.
Increased turbulent weather conditions behove all of us to alleviate flash flooding where we can. It's not someone else's problem, it's mine and it's yours.

In many towns, front gardens are concreted over to create parking. Repeated house after house and street after street, this amounts to idiocy on a massive scale.

This method of hard landscaping forces all rainwater immediately into the drainage system. When a heavy downpour occurs the system is overwhelmed. As a result, localised flooding occurs and the risk of urban flash floods is increased.

A more environmentally friendly way is to oblige householders to provide hard standing with a permeable base whereby water is allowed to soak slowly away into the drains. Equally up to the job and a sustainable way of disposing of runoff.

Alternative and inexpensive ideas to replace domestic concreted car parking areas are listed on

together with a list of recommendations we should all adopt.

This website promotes sustainable drainage systems 
(SuDS for short) and needs to shout its message from the rooftops.

These ideas, all practical, achievable and not necessarily expensive, are things everyone can do to slow down the runoff rushing into the drains. 

Anything which will hold back and delay water being absorbed into the system is of benefit and awareness needs to be raised of how every individual can help.

If these ideas are adopted wholesale the impact can be nothing short of incredible.

Part of the re-thinking about drainage is the promotion of green roofs.

Even a small garden shed roof can be both practical and a thing of beauty, especially if you want to encourage insect life.

I love Nigel Dunnett and his pioneering work on green walls and roofs in the UK and his profile makes fascinating reading

If you can buy, beg or borrow do read and draw inspiration from his book 

Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls 
co-written with Noel Kingsbury.

 Brilliant....... and made me want to go out and plant a green roof immediately.

Apart from being aesthetically pleasing green roofs can provide wildlife habitats and help mitigate extremes of our changing weather patterns.

I am seriously sold on the idea of greenery anywhere and everywhere - either on the roof or up the walls. I'll look later at living walls with the prime exponent of this art, Patrick Blanc, another of my heroes.

Just think, if we all adopted some of SuDS ideas, how much more green and pleasant would our green and pleasant land be?

Believe I've just added a shed to my garden wish list. With a nice roof.

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