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Natural flood defences installed in Acomb child’s play?

MP for Hexham, Tynedale and Ponteland, Guy Opperman visited Acomb to find out how the game Kerplunk is providing inspiration for flood defences dedicated to reducing flood risk to the community after devastating storm damage by Storm Desmond in 2015.

Nature-based flooding solutions in a ‘kerplunk’ style

Tyne Rivers Trust have been delivering natural flood management interventions for over 10 years throughout the Tyne catchment and we were delighted to be work with The Environment Agency and landowners to create and install natural flood management features on the Birkey Burn and Red Burn catchments, upstream of Acomb.

Why Kerplunk?
With a design strikingly similar to the popular children’s game ‘Kerplunk’, this project included a series of nature-based solutions such as wooden leaky barriers which hold back water during periods of heavy rainfall. Simple, but incredibly effective, the defence barrier is constructed using a series of interlocked wooden structures based on the popular game of Kerplunk and is designed to slow the flow of water while allowing fish to move through them. Crucially, this intervention does not disturb or intrude upon existing ecosystems. Nature Based Solutions are often far less complicated and expensive than hard engineered solutions, but even child’s-play inspired solutions still require a competence in understanding river processes and wider ecological considerations, along with navigating the legal requirements of statutory agencies and land ownership.

The project is estimated to be completed by autumn this year and will work hand in hand with the in-town traditional flood defences. Constructed from locally felled trees, the features also form part of a thinning process to manage the woodland at Target Wood, reducing the need to transport materials and lowering the project’s carbon footprint.   

MP for Hexham, Tynedale and Ponteland, Guy Opperman was joined by representatives from the Environment Agency, Tyne Rivers Trust and Cllr Trevor Cessford, Civic Head of Northumberland and County Councillor for Hexham with Acomb ward on a trip around the site on Friday 26th May to bring to life the important work that is taking place here. The structures will work hand in hand with the town’s traditional flood defences by slowing the flow of water to provide more robust protection downstream. More than 50 natural features have been constructed to date with a further 25 flood reduction measures due to be installed during 2023.   

Flood Prevention in Northumberland
Acomb was affected by Storm Desmond in 2015 and saw the in-town defences completed by the Environment Agency at the end of 2020. These defences included improvements to the bridge and the construction of a new flood wall and embankment. The natural flood management project is being led by the Environment Agency working in partnership with Tyne Rivers Trust, alongside local farmers and landowners.   

Jamie Stewart at Tyne Rivers Trust said    

“Tyne Rivers Trust have been delivering natural flood management interventions for over 10 years throughout the Tyne catchment, continually evolving the designs to maximise their effectiveness on a site-by-site basis.  

“It is fantastic to work with landowners and partners to deliver a project which not only helps protect the local community from flood risks, but also helps our ongoing efforts to build resilience against climate change within the river Tyne catchment.”  

Leila Huntington, Environment Agency Operations Manager, said:    

“It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to showcase this innovative approach that provides both benefits for flood risk management and significant opportunities for the environment.    

“Natural flood management can make a vital contribution to flood resilience, alongside more traditional approaches. This scheme at Acomb is not only protecting the local community, but also has many wider benefits for the climate, wildlife and water resources.  

“Our partners and landowners with their skills and local knowledge are integral to the project’s ongoing success and our commitment to all working together has ensured our vision is coming to life.”

Guy Opperman MP said:  

“This investment from the Government for natural flood protection here in Acomb is fantastic. 

“On top of the traditional flood defences already in place, many residents and businesses will welcome these nature-based solutions. 

“It is great to see this extra investment result in action so quickly, bringing real peace of mind and confidence to the local community—a huge thank you to everyone involved in this project.” 

To find out more about our practical conservation projects like this one, head to Our Projects | Tyne Rivers Trust.

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