Flood prevention techniques on show

Jimmy Sinclair (Chairman of the Scottish NSA).
Jimmy Sinclair (Chairman of the Scottish NSA).

NATURAL flood prevention and how farmers can help will be the subject of a farm walk near Heriot next week.

Experts from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC, formerly Scottish Agricultural College), Tweed Forum and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will discuss steps farmers can take at the free event on Wednesday (November 14) at Crookston Farm.

Farmers Graeme and Jimmy Sinclair, hosting the visit, will show some of the measures they have tried to help slow the flow of rainwater from their land.

Graeme said: “The steps we are taking to reduce surface water run-off rates will hopefully have a positive effect on reducing potentially damaging flood water levels in Stow and Galashiels. At the same time, they benefit our livestock management and also the farm environment. But to create a lasting effect the approach needs to be co-ordinated.”

SRUC consultants have worked with Tweed Forum and local farmers in investigating the potential of natural flood management. They admit the environmentally-friendly steps will never solve all the flooding problems, but say they can lessen the damage to land or property and contribute to reducing the flood peak and increasing community resilience to damage.

Work in the Gala Water catchment area, with funding from Scottish Borders Council, has seen experts help arrange several measures on farms, including Crookston.

Tweed Forum’s Hugh Chalmers said: “It is about getting the best deal for the individual farming system as well as other benefits. Restoring natural habitats can reduce the effect of extreme events on the farm as well as farms and communities downstream. It can also deliver other benefits, like the protection of livestock, an increase in riverside plants and animals, better fishing and locking up carbon.”

The information day is open to all and will cover several techniques to slow water run-off including, for example, fencing off cleuchs in upland areas and planting native woodland to prevent stock trampling and encourage deeper soil layers.

An SRUC spokesman continued: “Fencing also 
keeps stock out of wet areas that harbour the snails 
linked to liver fluke infection. Different stocking levels 
create different grass sward heights that absorb more water. Redesigning ditches 
and forest drains means they don’t carry flood water downstream so quickly, while ponds not only hold back surface run-off but provide drinking water and sporting potential.”

Speakers will include SRUC sheep specialist John Vipond who will talk about more accurate feeding saving money and reducing the effect on the environment.

Mr Chalmers will talk about the natural flood management techniques introduced on Crookston farm while Chris McDonald of SAC Consulting, a division of SRUC, will advise on diffuse pollution prevention measures. SAC Consulting’s Donald Dunbar will talk about alternative drinking water for livestock.

SEPA’s Wull Dryburgh will cover land management and binding rules on environmental practice and SAC Consulting’s Rebecca Audsley will talk about conservation planning and benefits.

The free event, from 10am to 2.30pm, includes lunch and anyone interested in attending is asked to contact SAC Consulting coordinator Val Angus on 01835 823322 or by e-mailing Val.Angus@sac.co.uk.