River Management

See also the Activities/River Cocker Conservation

Historical records of flash flooding (January 2021)

For anyone interested in the history of flash flooding in our area going back over 200 years an interesting compendium has been created by the JBA Trust.  The main source of information for the extended chronology is the online British Newspaper Archive (BNA) with records commencing from early 18th century. This was supplemented by information from libraries and Local Record Offices and additional information was found in individual national newspaper online archives.

The first link is to the summary page and the second link to the file for Cumbria West Lakes



Trees and flooding (6 March 2018)

The effect of trees on flooding is much debated. In the aftermath of widespread flooding in Cumbria during December 2015 much attention focussed on whether natural solutions, in particular tree planting in upstream catchments, can have a role in reducing flood risk. Previous posts on this site have provided links to reports from the environment agency.

Here is a new report from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, published in August 2017, that presents the results of the initial literature search and qualitative data analysis from a systematic review of the evidence to link land use and river flows.

Natural Flood Management

The Environment Agency has published data, case studies and evidence about the role of natural flood management in reducing flood risk on 31 October 2017. Natural flood management is when natural processes are used to reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion. Examples relevant to our area include: restoring bends in rivers and changing the way land is managed so soil can absorb more water. This link takes you to the entry page. Follow links on to more than 60 case studies and other documents.


The papers include an interesting set of 15 one-page summaries of evidence and case studies about natural processes. This link takes you directly to that document.


Recent river management and flood events

A number of initiatives have taken place or are about to happen, in the follow-up to storm Desmond in December 2015.

The Lake District National Park Authority hosted a ‘North Distinctive Area Tour‘ on 14th June, aimed primarily at local councillors. The day looked at the situation in Braithwaite, downstream effects on Braithwaite Moss (the land above Bassenthwaite) and the effects of gravel deposition from Brockle Beck at Bowe Barn, Borrowdale.

Presentations and information covered: an update on the WhitBeck naturalisation project by Vikki Salas of the West Cumbria Rivers Trust; Development of a Charter for collaborative action on Natural Flood Management (Julia Aglionby from the Foundation of Common Land); and an introduction to  the recently appointed EA Catchment Director for the Derwent Catchment, Amy Heys. A 25 year plan is in development to be published this summer, supposedly to be made available for public consultation and to be managed as a living document.

Arising from discussions at this event, here are links to two research reports dealing with the impact of trees on flooding, which make interesting reading about managing land in the catchment.

Water use by Trees

Summary of evidence from UK studies on the contribution of Forestry to Flood Alleviation

Cumbria Rivers Trusts Channel-Management-Aide-Memoir

There is also an information leaflet about river channel management that is relevant to some of our backs affected by gravel deposition.

Members of the Melbreak Communities Steering Group attended a Cumbria Community Resilience Network meeting on 27th June to share information about preparation, response and recovery from flooding, in connection with the Melbreak Communities Emergency Plan, which covers Buttermere, Loweswater, Lorton and Blind Bothel.

A public Flood Forum meeting is scheduled for Thursday 7th July at the Yew Tree Hall, High Lorton, at which the Lorton Valley Flood Investigation report will be presented with opportunities for questions and discussion (see the notice on the Melbreak local events diary page). The Lorton report can be accessed via this link:


Roger Hiley has contributed this pictorial documentation of the Whitbeck project:


The most recent meeting with representatives from the Environment Agency, Cumbria County Council and the West Cumbria Rivers Trust (WCRT) took place on 3 December 2013.  Details of the main presentation can be viewed here.  The valley river system referred to is depicted here.  WCRT presented their work on Whit beck, click  here for details.

At this meeting the Environment Agency presented the final report for the updated hydraulic modelling of the River Cocker & Whit Beck. To view the report click here.  This disclaimer is associated with the report:

(c) Environment Agency 2013.
All rights reserved. This document may be reproduced
with prior permission of the Environment Agency.

The views and statements expressed in this report are
those of the author alone. The views or statements
expressed in this publication do not necessarily
represent the views of the Environment Agency and the
Environment Agency cannot accept any responsibility for
such views or statements.

Any queries about the EA report should be addressed to the project manager Jonathan Coates at:
Flood & Coastal Risk Management Officer
Partnerships & Strategic Overview Cumbria
Environment Agency
Penrith Office
01768 215779

Defra have developed an online calculator (the ‘Property Protection Adviser’) to help people understand the cost of reducing their flood risk using property-level protection. The Adviser is to help householders better understand the benefits and costs involved in taking action to adapt their homes.

In November 2012, we hosted our second open meeting with the Environment Agency about flooding and gravel management and we will shortly upload some notes about this and further reports here. See here for notes on the first meeting in 2011 and here for the action plan from that meeting. In October 2012, the EA introduced a new flood mapping system which you can read about here and see for our area here. A Flood Alert app is now available for Apple and Blackberry devices and one for Android users will also be available in 2013, see here for more info.

Two Floodline numbers are available 0345 988 1188 and 0845 988 1188 (see the EA notice).

In the meantime, the Agency has asked us to pass on the following message:

“We are looking to work with a small group of local residents who are particularly interested in understanding the complexities around gravel management. If you are interested in being part of a small working group, please ring Maria Ullyart at the Environment Agency on tel: 01768 215788 to register your interest”.

Here are some previous EA reports relevant to river management in the valley:
Low Lorton Modelling Report
Whit Beck Modelling Report August 2010
Whit Beck Modelling Report November 2010
Whit Beck survey May 2011

Further work on Whitbeck is planned in collaboration with Natural England and the West Cumbria Rivers Trust, which you can read about here.

Stop press: All parties are now signed up to the Whit Beck project and the target start date is Monday 16th June 2014.

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