The Dovenby Floods: Natural Flood Management

Community action — combined with expertise from the Rivers Trust movement—helped to transform an entire village.

Emily Cooper


Dovenby is a small settlement, nestled between Cockermouth and Maryport in West Cumbria. The area floods on a regular basis; during storm Desmond, four houses flooded, as well as—devastatingly—the local pub! The only access road into and out of the village regularly floods in two places, isolating the people who live in in the village.

The Dovenby floods occur due to a number of factors. A large expanse of land drains into the narrow beck which runs through the village, and the compacted soils of the surrounding fields means that this process happens very quickly. In addition, due to the fact that the beck has been straightened over time, the draining water reaches the village rapidly. The existing infrastructure to deal with floodwater isn't sufficient to cope with the sheer quantity of water reaching Dovenby.

This problem formed the basis of a connection between West Cumbria Rivers Trust (WCRT) and the local flood action group. In partnership, they identified the potential for interventions which would help to ‘slow the flow’.

At the same time, data collected from the Environment Agency, walkovers and electrofishing suggested that the Beck was suffering from poor water quality. Shocked by this discovery, WCRT and the flood action group decided to tackle the flooding issue simultaneously and ecological issues simultaneously.

West Country Rivers Trust

An abundance of work has been carried out to reduce the risk of flooding and improve water quality. Ten leaky dams have been installed. These wooden structures help to moderate the flow of water, decreasing the chance of flash floods. In addition, the height of two water gates has been increased, preventing blockages from forming during a flood.

West Cumbria RT

As a result of this project, Dovenby has enjoyed a wealth of benefits. The frequency of flooding has dropped, habitat diversity has increased, and runoff from surrounding farmland has decreased. This just goes to show how a relatively simple, environmentally-friendly form of intervention can make a huge impact on an entire community.

In the next stages of the project, a leaky pond will be created to further reduce flooding risk. Check out the video below to find out more about Natural Flood Management!

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