Natural flood management works underway in Northumberland Village


The Environment Agency is working with Tyne Rivers Trust and landowners to use natural materials to slow the flow of water on the Birkey Burn and Red Burn catchments above Acomb.

It includes a series of leaky wooden dams, which hold back water during heavy rains to temporarily slow the flow of water downstream, and structures based on the childhood game “Kerplunk” – a series of interlocking wooden elements designed to slow the flow of water while allowing the passage of fish.

Newly constructed watertight barriers on the Birkey Burn

Completion scheduled for spring

These features are made from trees felled on site as part of a thinning process to manage the Target Wood forest, reducing the need to haul materials and reducing the carbon footprint of the project.

Work on the £260,000 project began late last year and is due to be completed in the spring.

He will work in support of the village’s recently completed flood defenses, which functioned for the first time to protect Acomb from potential flooding in the New Year.

The picture shows one of the dams

One of the leaky ‘winged’ dams under construction

A project full of hope “will reassure residents”

Caroline Maarouf, Flood Risk Advisor at the Environment Agency, said:

At the end of 2020, we completed construction work in the village center to better protect Acomb from flooding, which included bridge improvements and the construction of a new flood wall and embankment.

Now these new natural elements upstream will slow the flow of water before it reaches the village, working hand in hand with the defenses to provide more robust protection.

We understand how devastating it is to be flooded and have worked closely with the community and our partners to develop a solution tailored to the village. Hopefully this will reassure residents, who we know have often suffered from flooding problems.

Ceri Gibson, CEO of Tyne Rivers Trust, added:

Natural flood management is becoming increasingly important to help cope with climate change and manage the sustainability of the Tyne catchment.

We have also worked hard to minimize the carbon footprint of this project by using nearby felled trees and specialist equipment such as an alpine tractor which uses less fuel and has less impact on soil conditions and biodiversity. The Forestry Commission and other project managers have shown interest in this working method which we hope to extend to many other areas of the watershed.

Image shows one of the completed 'kerplunk' structures

One of the completed ‘kerplunk’ structures.

Campaign against winter floods

Acomb had already been affected during storm Desmond in the winter of 2015.

Funding for the program comes from the government’s £5.2bn investment to better protect 336,000 properties across England by 2027 by building flood and coastal defences. Up to £193million will be invested in the North East, with flood mitigation schemes planned for Hexham and Team Valley, among others.

The work began during the Environment Agency’s Winter Flood Campaign, where people are encouraged to find more information on how to make their homes, businesses and communities more resilient to floods and sign up for flood warnings.

Residents of flood-prone areas need to know what to do in case of flood and they are encouraged to download the file ‘Prepare. Act. Survive.’ flood plan to help reduce their risk.

Acomb has a very active flood protection group, which works with the Environment Agency to ensure the community is prepared for flooding. This includes site visits to vulnerable areas, creating and updating a community flood plan, and supporting residents to create personal flood plans.


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