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“Leaky dams” to prevent flooding in Thaxted

1 March 2017

In the first project of its kind in Essex, a series of “leaky dams” will be built into a Thaxted watercourse to help reduce the risk of surface water flooding to a number of local properties whilst improving wildlife habitats.

Felled trees and other woody debris will be pinned into the river bank allowing water to flow freely when levels are normal. In times of flooding, the flow of water is slowed, reducing pressure on the dam by still allowing water through. Leaky dams also prevent flood water from washing away soil and silt from eroded river banks.

Phase 1 of the scheme saw Suffolk Punch horses - a rare breed of heavy horse traditionally used in logging and the transportation of wood products - extracting felled trees from Garnetts Wood, Dunmow, in preparation for the construction in March. 

The felled timber and woody debris has been sustainably harvested from the Council’s own estate as part of the Essex Woodland Project. 

The Environment Agency are a contributing partner to the Natural Flood Management aspect of the scheme and Matt Butcher, Catchment Manager (Essex) for the Environment Agency commented: “This is a really exciting partnership project and something the Environment Agency is delighted to support.  

"Using sustainably produced, local timber to create leaky dams and other semi natural features is a great way to reduce flood risk and enhance the environment.  Involving these beautiful horses to further reduce the environmental impact of the scheme is fantastic and shows that traditional methods are sometimes still the best.”

Construction work on the dams will cost £10,000, with an additional £75,000 for civil engineering work in a nearby lane. 

A ’Slow the flow’ project in North Yorkshire saw the local flood risk reduced by 15-20%. Essex County Council is hoping to replicate this success in Thaxted.

Find out more about how a community can access funds to prevent flooding or call 0844 798 1261.