Forestry Commission and Environment Agency project aims to alleviate flooding in North Yorkshire

An ancient North Yorkshire landscape is being used in a Forestry Commission study exploring ways of alleviating severe flooding.

A project by the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency is underway at 340ha Bishop Wood, near Cawood, to dam drainage ditches.

The work will allow rainwater to be retained for longer in the wood rather than quickly flowing downstream into the Selby Dam, a tributary of the River Ouse. The initiative is being backed by £25,000 from the National Grid.

Around 3km of dykes are being excavated to increase their storage capacity and then dammed. During heavy downpours these channels will fill with water, eventually overspilling into selected areas, covering up to 12ha of the wood.

Forestry Commission wildlife officer Brian Walker said: "This is the first time in Yorkshire that we have tried anything quite like this and although it's a relatively small scale experiment, it could have far wider implications for other flood-prone areas. We are not flooding the wood, but rather reverting back to a pattern of seasonal wetness. There are also extremely good ecological reasons for re-wetting the wood. It will boost biodiversity and over time more oak and alder will take root, both classical wet woodland species."

Public access to the popular wood will be maintained as many trails and paths are already on higher ground, while others will be diverted. Work to dam the drainage ditches will take six weeks.


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