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What the authorities won’t tell you about the floods

December 26, 2015

Guest Post by Philip Walling


Author of Counting Sheep, Philip Walling

Author of Counting Sheep, Philip Walling




This article was originally published in the Newcastle Journal earlier this month:




Amid all the devastation and recrimination over the floods in Cumbria hardly anybody mentions one factor that may not be the sole cause, but certainly hasn’t helped, and that is the almost complete cessation of dredging of our rivers since we were required to accept the European Water Framework Directive (EWF) into UK law in 2000.
Yet until then, for all of recorded history, it almost went without saying that a watercourse needed to be big enough to take any water that flowed into it, otherwise it would overflow and inundate the surrounding land and houses. Every civilisation has known that, except apparently ours. It is just common sense. City authorities and, before them, manors and towns and villages, organised themselves to make sure their watercourses were cleansed, deepened and sometimes embanked to hold whatever water they had to carry away.
In nineteenth century Cockermouth they came up with an ingenious way of doing this. Any able-bodied man seeking bed and board for the night in the workhouse was required to take a shovel and wheelbarrow down to the River Derwent and fetch back two barrow-loads of gravel for mending the roads. This had the triple benefit of dredging the river, maintaining the roads and making indigent men useful.
In Cumbria they knew they had to keep the river clear of the huge quantities of gravel that were washed down from the fells, especially in times of flood. For Cumbrian rivers are notoriously quick to rise as the heavy rain that falls copiously on the High Fells rapidly runs off the thin soils and large surface area over which it falls. Cumbrian people have always known that their rivers would be subject to such sudden and often violent inundations and prepared for them by deepening and embanking their channels. Such work was taken very seriously.
There are numerous records over many centuries of the Cockermouth Court Leet (Manor Court) imposing fines on occupiers for neglecting to cleanse the watercourses that ran through their land. So important was it to prevent flooding that the court often issued detailed and explicit instructions to parishes how to cleanse their various watercourses. For example in 1718 (and again in 1772) certain owners, whose land bordered the river, were fined for allowing it to become ‘beaten out of its course by sand and gravel’ and given two months to dredge it out.
It was obvious to people, who depended on the land for their living that failing to keep the rivers clear of sand and gravel would cause them to burst their banks and destroy in a few hours fertility that had taken generations to create, wash away their houses, and drown their livestock.
Last century the obligation to dredge out the rivers was transferred to local river boards, consisting of farmers and landowners who knew the area and its characteristics, and who had statutory responsibilities to prevent or minimise flooding.
But all this changed with the creation of the Environment Agency in 1997 and when we adopted the European Water Framework Directive in 2000. No longer were the authorities charged with a duty to prevent flooding. Instead, the emphasis shifted, in an astonishing reversal of policy, to a primary obligation to achieve ‘good ecological status’ for our national rivers. This is defined as being as close as possible to ‘undisturbed natural conditions’. ‘Heavily modified waters’, which include rivers dredged or embanked to prevent flooding, cannot, by definition, ever satisfy the terms of the directive. So, in order to comply with the obligations imposed on us by the EU we had to stop dredging and embanking and allow rivers to ‘re-connect with their floodplains’, as the currently fashionable jargon has it.
And to ensure this is done, the obligation to dredge has been shifted from the relevant statutory authority (now the Environment Agency) onto each individual landowner, at the same time making sure there are no funds for dredging. And any sand and gravel that might be removed is now classed as ‘hazardous waste’ and cannot be deposited to raise the river banks, as it used to be, but has to be carted away.
On the other hand there is an apparently inexhaustible supply of grant money available for all manner of conservation and river ‘restoration’ schemes carried out by various bodies, all of which aim to put into effect the utopian requirements of the E W F Directive to make rivers as ‘natural’ as possible.
For example, 47 rivers trusts have sprung up over the last decade, charities heavily encouraged and grant-aided by the EU, Natural England, the Environment Agency, and also by specific grants from various well-meaning bodies such as the National Lottery, water companies and county councils. The West Cumbria Rivers Trust, which is involved in the River Derwent catchment, and includes many rivers that have flooded, is a good example. But they all have the same aim, entirely consonant with EU policy, to return rivers to their ‘natural healthy’ state, reversing any ‘straightening and modifying’ which was done in ‘a misguided attempt to get water off the land quicker’. They only think it ‘misguided’ because fast flowing water contained within its banks can scour out its bed and maybe wash out some rare crayfish or freshwater mussel, and that conflicts with their (and the EU’s) ideal of a ‘natural’ river .
The Environment Agency has spent millions of pounds on ‘flood defences’ and still has the gall to warn us piously that they are not guaranteed to work and if our houses are flooded and livestock washed away and drowned, we will just have to accept it. The climate is changing, they say, live with it. But the real reason they erect expensive and largely ineffective flood defences, as at Carlisle and Keswick, is because such work does not interfere with the flow of the river in its bed, so it does not infringe the EU Water Framework Directive.
Also there is EU money available for flood ‘defences’, but none for the very measure that would do some good, namely removing the huge build-up of gravel from the river bed. This is hardly mentioned, and if it is, they try to make out that it would do more harm than good. Maybe to molluscs and invertebrates, but not to the devastated people whose homes are being destroyed time and time again.
No. The truth they don’t tell you is that even if they wanted to, neither the UK government, nor the Environment Agency has the power to dredge – or the money. So next time you see David Cameron and his MP acolytes swanning around Cumbria in wellingtons, high-viz jackets and hard hats, wringing their hands and promising to do whatever it takes to protect us from flooding, ask them how exactly they intend to get round the European Water Framework Directive. And they would have to tell you they can’t. Not while we remain in the EU. So any sympathy politicians express for the plight of their constituents is either based on ignorance, or deceit. It’s about time we asked them which it is.




Philip Walling is the author of the best-selling Counting Sheep published in 2014 by Profile Books and is currently writing a book on man’s relationship with water.

  1. c777 permalink
    December 26, 2015 6:50 pm

    1997, the beginning of governance by NGO and lobbyists.
    None of which cared for the interests of the public at large, only their own.

  2. James Donnell permalink
    December 26, 2015 6:51 pm

    Yet again, “natural” is defined as that which ignores human wisdom. I am sure many of the rivers threading their way through Europe are sluggish, carry a fine silt, and essentially dredge themselves every time there is a bit more flow than normal. So of course Brussels feels able to pass laws preventing dredging – all that lovely rich soil should land up in Flanders fields, not be dumped on some upstream shore. But those nasty, steep rivers must be dredged – ask the Swiss!

  3. Dave Echell permalink
    December 26, 2015 7:34 pm

    the EU is the madness of the mad. GET US OUT!

    • wert permalink
      December 26, 2015 9:12 pm

      Or rather get EU out of us instead of getting US in TTIP.

      Not everything in EU is bad, but it gives big government lefties a nice tool to enforce ideas.

      • December 26, 2015 10:17 pm

        You say ‘not everything in the EU is bad’ but I need convincing. What’s so good? Take the free trade/single market.We’re all in favour, surely? Good? Well….. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the trade arrangements that we could not have voluntarily, if we wished. Membership of the EU is not required for free trade, the proper forum for which is the WTO, and if we were outside the EU, we would be free to make advantageous trade deals with the rest of the world. Today we can’t do that. In fact, it is illegal for the UK to have ANY KIND OF TRADE POLICY, and so our policy is handed down by the distillation of pressure groups of inefficient French farmers, Spanish factory fishermen, Italian winemakers and a host of other special interests with their hooks into the Brussels process.

        I challenge you to find one example of a ‘good’ that is not possible outside the EU, unless you’re going to quote some particular regional or structural largesse, which definitely doesn’;t count in a country that is a net contributor such as UK, which may get a bit back after it has been laundered through the wasteful, corrupt, unaudited, EEC institutions.

        Back to main subject – very nicely written piece. Hope that it gets published in the local Cumbrian papers, and aired on their radio stations (those that aren’t BBC-controlled, perhaps)

      • Keitho permalink
        December 29, 2015 8:03 am

        Perhaps I could direct your attention to

        He was the bright spark behind this insane social engineering that we are in the middle of.

  4. December 26, 2015 8:49 pm

    The article contained one important error: the UK does not “adopt” EU Directives, we are obliged to apply and enforce them. Until the UK leaves the EU we will continue to gave these daft Directives imposed upon us.

    It is no use arguing that we can try to convince the EU not to do such silly things as this Directive. We have about 8% of the votes so we can never win.

    In all the years since we joined the EU there has never once been an example of the UK seeking to oppose a Directive in the Council of Minister (the committee the UK PM and Ministers go to) and win – we have lost on every single case.

    • Mike Biden permalink
      December 30, 2015 5:44 am

      You all miss the point that it was the UK Environment Agency working in Brussels that pioneered the policy!! We would have had this policy with or without the EU. The EU is blamed by every politician and jobs-worth civil servant – and now everyone else – as being the cause of our problems – it isn’t – most of them derive from fads and fashions. If the UK Parliament did its job of debating or reviewing any proposed EU legislation – like they do in every other Member then we would see better EU policies – but as it is we leave it to our MEPs – most of whom are dedicated to getting us out rather than making it work. The UK is certainly showing itself to be incapable of taking full advantage the enormous opportunities the EU has created.

      Eire has gone from being the poorest country in the British Isles – 30% poorer – to the richest – 20% richer than the UK. Yet they have had no oil and gas, are in the Eurozone, had a housing bust and a bailout!! And no they don’t seem to have the same problems with flooding and no they have not had vast amounts of money from EU finds either- they have only a very small positive balance – what they have done is embrace the EU and attract far more manufacturing investment in high value electronic and pharmaceutical industries.

      You are what the Aussies call “whinging poms” – I despair for this country. We are the most ignorant in Europe on anything to do with Europe. We have not only forgotten how to dredge our watercourses, but how it has always been in our strategic interests to ensure that Europe was fashioned to suit us. We have even fought wars. Now it seems we cannot even take responsibility for making sure they have a sensible Water Directive – how low have we sunk?

      • Simon Butcher permalink
        December 30, 2015 5:17 pm

        I seem to remember that we have just bailed out a bankrupt Eire for whom the EU project has not worked as well as they hoped!

      • Barry permalink
        January 1, 2016 10:37 pm

        My experience of Ireland is that they don’t actually like the euro I’ve when I’ve spoken to the Irish people in Ireland the report back to me that everything is far to expensive in southern Ireland and that the ones that are fortunate enough to live near to northern Ireland go across the border to buy supplies because its actually cheaper to do that then stay in the republic and purchase things Inc fuel for their cars. They’ve also said that the republic made a mistake by going into the euro and they wished they hadn’t done so. This was from real people living in southern Ireland. Not the polititions and the financiers massaged figures by the way southern Ireland also has a severe housing crisis as well with thousands homeless. Can you think of another country at the moment that has the same problems in the eurozone? Perhaps Greece maybe. It seems Germany has done pretty much the same in Greece as they’ve done to the republic of Ireland by holding them to ransom from what I’ve seen as I’ve been to Ireland and seen what the ordinary people are dealing with.

    • philip walling permalink
      January 1, 2016 9:28 pm

      By passing the original act that took us into the EU we implicitly ‘adopted’ into UK law whatever rules the EU imposed upon us.
      I accept there was no formal ‘adoption’ of the Water Framework Directive because there was no need for us to do so.

      • MikeP_UK permalink
        June 22, 2016 9:41 am

        We never voted to join the EU. We voted to join the EEC, a very different entity to the EU. That corrupt organisation was foisted upon us by governments since Heath without our permission – there never has been a vote for us to decide. At last we get a vote but characterised by spin and deceipt.
        Flood prevention is far better approach that protection after the event. Dredging and clearing has for centuries been the norm across not just the UK and Europe but many other nations too. Bureaucrats, as usual, fail to understand the realities of the world we live in.

  5. December 26, 2015 10:13 pm

    … and so it will continue under Cameron’s “British model” aka Associate membership.

  6. December 26, 2015 10:39 pm

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Cameron chairs the flooding committee meeting tomorrow. He needs to read Paul Homewoods blog so he knows we’re onto him and his EU chums crazy schemes.

  7. john cooknell permalink
    December 26, 2015 10:42 pm

    The question I have asked many politicians and Environment Agency hierarchy that never gets answered, is “why have you stopped dredging rivers when you believe climate models that predict that it will get wetter?”

    I usually get no reply or a response that says something to the effect that dredging is not the answer, which may be right but doing nothing results in floods

    • December 27, 2015 2:45 am

      Dredging is obviously not the entire answer – however it most certainly is part of any recipe to control watercourses. The goons in senior management at the EA chose to ignore this. They think that their 350 strong PR team can sort out any issues with the public….

      There have been – as I understand it – a number of research projects which have gone some way to build a history of flooding in Cumbria – the results seeming to be at odds with the MSM-BBC versions of what’s happening at the moment….

      The clowns at Horizon House in Bristol and Millbank Tower in London have a political agenda that needs jerking back to reality …..

  8. Paul2 permalink
    December 26, 2015 11:29 pm

    Press f3 (search) and type in “dredge”. Absolutely nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

    Click to access lancashire-and-blackpool-flood-risk-management-strategy-2014-2017.pdf

    • Graham permalink
      December 28, 2015 5:08 pm

      In the same document, search for “climate change” – 27 results. Says it all. Written by bone-headed fools who haven’t got the nouse to do their own research.

  9. December 26, 2015 11:40 pm

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News.

  10. December 27, 2015 12:42 am

    The problem we are dealing with time and again (as here) is the conflict between “nature” and organized, urbanized society: if the world is to be “wild” and free to act as it pleases, there is little space or resources available to maintain the non-hunter-gatherer human.

    Britain and most of Europe is so far from its natural self that one must wonder what Rousseauian paradise is envisioned by the eco-green. But perhaps this Utopian time is clearer if we consider the claim that the planet really can handle only 1 billion people, not the current 6+ billion of us. Think of it – 1/6th. Britain at 12 million, Europe at 85 million, the United States at 60 million.

    The de-populated land is the place where nature can truly be left to its own devices. Without that, we must accept the human engineered world. Now, does that mean that the English rivers run free and people abandon the floodplains? Seems reasonable if Britain accepts depopulation, but, outside of that?

    Our social and environmental philosophies are in conflict with our current way of living. Our governments need to put the changes necessary to bring the eco-green dream to reality to a vote. Starting with the areas (and economies) that the eco-green depend on. Only fair.

    • Brian H permalink
      December 27, 2015 1:27 am

      De-pop is foolish and unnecessary. The world has only enough people to fill Texas to the density of the average suburb.

      • Barry permalink
        December 28, 2015 9:16 am

        What the hell are you on about it is a known fact that the world was getting overcrowded when we had a world population of 3 billion people but at that stage the world could live sustainably along the hunter gatherer lifestyle as we were spose to live but now we are at 7.5 billion and growing its now getting to the stage where we can’t feed the population and we have to genetically modify foods to keep these inflated numbers growing. When we get famine or war we get people crying save the children save the starving well with famine and drought that is natures way of killing a load of people off to balance the world population out just like it does with the animal populations when you get a population explosion. So at some point one way or another we have to de populate to survive

      • JohnB permalink
        December 29, 2015 1:45 am

        Sorry Barry, but no. We are feeding more today than ever before. Even with the growing population there are less hunger people every year.

        If there wasn’t constant opposition to building dams that provide irrigation and clean drinking water we could feed even more.

        There is no need to depopulate at all.

  11. Barry green permalink
    December 27, 2015 1:25 am

    This is exactly what I’ve been saying for months if you do not dredge rivers than the river beds will get shallower and not allow the water to flow so it will cause the river to burst its banks. And all this because of bloody brussels again. The sooner we can leave the better. Let’s get out of Europe and save Britain . when I was growing up dredging was pat of the fabric of river management and helped to prevent flooding and did so when the EA took over they decided to save money and sold all the dredgers off and sacked all the river maintenance staff this has caused the rivers to silt up and reed beds to grow thus blocking the rivers flow to the sea and causing the river to burst its banks in times of heavy rain. Now we need a lot of money and effort spent on dredging and then maintaining all our rivers to a time of around when the NRA ran the river maintenance then the flooding would stop. Since the Somerset levels were dredged have they flooded this year ? Answer no they havnt and Somerset has had just as much rainfall so work it out for yourselves dredging stops flooding. And according to this the government are more scared of European directives than they are of the poor sods getting flooded out year on year

  12. saveenergy permalink
    December 27, 2015 2:38 am

    ” allow rivers to ‘re-connect with their floodplains’, ”
    & then all the houses built on the flood-plane …..flood …simples

  13. Hugh Eaven permalink
    December 27, 2015 8:29 am

    Dredging actually would be worse in terms of flooding as *more* water would stream *faster* down river, causing *more* trouble for *more* people faster elsewhere and eventually everywhere as erosion would quicken too. This is common knowledge right? Water has to go somewhere, right? That said, just cessation of dredging will not suffice. Re-establishing floodplains and other forms of storage, slowing and dispersion would remain crucial. It reads to me as a theoretical good policy executed half with the predictable bad results for anyone connected to the river upstream.

    • Philip Walling permalink
      December 27, 2015 2:18 pm

      Hugh Eaven, I’m afraid I do not understand your logic here.
      ‘Water has to go somewhere’, I agree, but it is making its way back to the sea to complete the water cycle. The quicker it gets there the better. Why would dredging have a bad effect on anyone upstream? And why would erosion be increased? Erosion of what? The problem is deposition, not erosion.

      • N.Hodson permalink
        December 28, 2015 11:07 am


      • choddo permalink
        December 28, 2015 10:14 pm

        It wouldn’t, it would have a bad effect on people between the dredging and the sea.

    • Barry permalink
      December 27, 2015 4:36 pm

      They dredged the rivers around the Somerset levels earlier this year and what’s happened there now we have the winter storms hitting the west and north country the Somerset levels are dry and not flooded. Dredging has been done on the fenland waterways of Cambridgeshire for hundreds of years although not for the last 30 and Cambridge or Ely has never flooded while this area has been managed and most of that area is below sea level. If you do what the government are currently do and build walls you will have to build them higher and higher each year to cope with the silt that is being washed down the rivers and tributaries. So yes dredging does work. I spose you live in a concrete jungle and know nothing of the real world so I put it to you you don’t know what you are talking about

    • roger permalink
      December 27, 2015 5:01 pm

      H.E. Your first sentence is totally illogical and so obviously so that I will leave you to work out why.
      You go on to say that the cessation of dredging will not suffice – suffice for what? There was no problem before the enforced cessation by the EU of time honoured local river management and it’s replacement by top down dictats from remote politicos from the Urals to the Pyrenees.
      We have built on the floodplains and forested the hills and mountains that surround them, draining the bogs to allow subsidy tree farming to thrive.
      We have put wind turbines and serious access roads to serve them on the tops to farm yet more subsidies from the populace.
      In short, landowners have had their cake and are enjoying it, whilst the enabling politicians wring their hands and cry crocodile tears as they await retirement to highly paid sinecure in Brussels.

    • Salah Mulgrew permalink
      December 28, 2015 1:33 pm

      HE, replace the word ‘river’ with ‘my drainpipe’ and see if your statement still makes sense. The physics of both issues roughly the same.

  14. Antigone permalink
    December 27, 2015 9:27 am

    Actually, the UK government could raise a direct action with the EU commission to challenge the validity of the EU directive on the grounds that it impacts negatively on EU citizens’ (UK citizens are EU citizens too) right to safety and security.

  15. December 27, 2015 9:59 am

    Severe floods occurred in the Cockermouth area in 1761,1771,1852,1874,1918,1931/32/33, 1938,1924,1966,2005,2008,2009. (environment agency), in 1607 a major storm in Somerset swept away villages down the Bristol Channel killing approx. 2,000 people.

    • Paul2 permalink
      December 27, 2015 11:59 am

      David, do you have a link to those floods?

      • December 28, 2015 8:58 am

        Unfortunately I do not have a link in this case, I read so much on different sites I do not always keep a track like I should do. I can tell you it came from my Twitter account on a climate related website, such as Climatism or The Resilient Earth etc. Try the Environment Agency where it originally came from.

      • Keitho permalink
        December 29, 2015 8:09 am

        Here’s one for the floods at York though. Makes those claiming “climate change” look a bit silly.

  16. Robert permalink
    December 27, 2015 11:46 am

    This comment was left following the original article on 11 December by ‘Robin Hood’

    The Parliamentary Committee ( CCC) recommended that government “develop a strategy to address the increasing risk of homes at risk of flood”. In October the government replied: “A strategy to address future residual risk would not be appropriate at this time.” Cumbria’s prominent MPs, Rory Stewart, minister at the environment department, and Tim Farron, leader of the Lib Dems, have denounced calls for better management of watersheds to prevent flooding. The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) says dredging has a role to play. however, it cannot prevent flooding when heavy rainfall vastly exceeds the capacity of the river channel. Unintended consequences of dredging, can increase flood risk and increase the risk of damage to infrastructure. The CIWEM says land management lies at the heart of strategies to prevent damaging flooding, so cooperation of landowners, and farmers is critical to flood risk management. Rather than a knee jerk call for dredging they should ask how can we help. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and magnitude of severe flooding, we must elect people who listen to experts on flood prevention and climate change.

  17. Audit Monkey permalink
    December 27, 2015 12:13 pm

    I asked my aged father, retired mechanical engineer what they should and ought to have done to prevent the flooding. He replied “Dredge the rivers!”. My mother and I sat there rather non-plussed because the solution is so simple and so obvious, yet I would surmise it hasn’t been done.

    Sadly this happened in 2013/14 under Chris Smith’s watch at the Environment Agency. Despite pocketing £200k (thereabouts) as CEO, the Environment Agency neglected to dredge the River Parrett which was a contributory factor to the floods in Somerset which had a devastating impact on local communities. One would have thought that dredging was no brainer but alas no.

    Note, while dredging would have helped, I suspect it wouldn’t have prevented the flooding in Cumbria in its entirety; however the flooding would have less severe.

    • Barry permalink
      December 27, 2015 4:43 pm

      Exactly these once deep channels in Cumbria ar now shallow streams in the parts of it that I have seen over the years of going there

  18. Morph permalink
    December 27, 2015 1:50 pm

    The text of the directive is online. Searching for “Flood” seems to give a few passages where the directive can be varied or a lower standard applied.

    I could be wrong but the fault still seems to lie at the door of those useless ****s at Westminster and the pliable ****s in local councils and the EA.

    *(I am not a fan of the EU at all BTW, and would vote to exit tomorrow)

  19. Joe Public permalink
    December 27, 2015 2:13 pm

    “Met Office: Arctic sea-ice loss linked to colder, drier UK winters”

    • David Richardson permalink
      December 27, 2015 6:26 pm

      Joe – that was yesterday – keep up!!!

  20. Oliver permalink
    December 27, 2015 3:17 pm

    If half the countryside wasn’t washed into the river in the first place they wouldn’t need dredging you bloody idiot. All this is is another back door jab at the EU. Get over yourself!

    • December 27, 2015 4:43 pm

      Silt actually builds up much more when rivers are running slowly. It is a cumulative thing.

    • barry permalink
      December 27, 2015 4:51 pm

      The rivers will silt up and if you don’t drdge them the whole country will revert back to its natural state which is mountainous bogs and swamps in time to prevent this we need to manage our waterways and part of the management of our waterways is dredging the main channels to prevent flooding the EU is just trying to destabilise the UK economy for their own gain the sooner people wake up to this and we leave the better

    • David Richardson permalink
      December 27, 2015 6:39 pm

      Oliver – the whole country is a managed environment and has been for 400 years at least. You can stop doing it if that is your preferred option but it will revert to what it was.

      The whole point of the article is that we are dismantling the dredging and draining processes that we put in place, at the behest of EU directives firmly applied by the EA who are more interested in molluscs and beetles than they are in protecting peoples homes.

      If they told us that flooding the “floodplain” (it does what it says on the tin) was their intention and we will have to get over it, then it would be one thing, but to be actively working to make flooding worse and then appear on the TV saying they are doing the opposite simply shows contempt for those who they serve.

    • Barry permalink
      December 28, 2015 9:24 am

      Don’t know who your refering to but I suggest you look at the history of dredging and look at the areas that it was practiced then look at how many floods they had while this practice was being used and you would find that it is a needed method of ground management and flood control so look at your history before you make rash comments and accuse people of being a idiot when that’s exactly what you are for commenting on something that you obviously know fcuk all about

    • barry permalink
      December 28, 2015 10:30 am

      Says a townie who dosnt understand the natural water flow in the countryside. What you gunno do then glue the earth in place or stop it raining on such sites? You can’t stop silt and earth being washed into our waterways. Also the silt comes from fish detritus and rotting vegetation on the riverbeds. Also the reed beds and aquatic plants like lilly pads that spring up when the flow of the rivers slows. All these reasons was why dredging was done 30+years ago so that the rivers flow to the sea was maintained and that is how the flooding was kept to a minimum. Then the EA got control and the idiots at the top of it who never ventured out of offices saw it as a pointless waste of public money. Well it obviously wasn’t because 30 years later we are wasting billions more public money having to pay for the damage this neglect has caused. Building walls won’t work as has been shown in Cumbria this winter dredging will work as has been shown in Somerset levels this winter where are the floods in Somerset, it dosnt have them wonder why?

    • December 28, 2015 3:24 pm

      Ever wonder why the Mississippi River has so many oxbows? Probably not. There is not much steep terrain and the river meanders in large curves which tend to get silted up on the “slow” side. When there is a lot of water during a flood, the river finds a “shorter route” and creates a new channel thus cutting off the old meander into an oxbow.

  21. A C Osborn permalink
    December 27, 2015 7:06 pm

    One of the things that really really annoys me is the cost of Flood Defences, they talk about it costing £10s of millions.
    The cost of inadequate defences £500M+ every time it floods.
    They can’t even do simple arithmetic.

    • Barry permalink
      December 27, 2015 7:18 pm

      The cost of a dredger and its staff dosnt cost anything like the fantastic sums their talking about and we only need a few in every area that has a river and a staff member to work out where they need to be deployed by walking along the banks of the rivers and taking note of where the river is silting or where reed beds are clogging flow as was done in the 70s and early 80s by teams of water baliffs then call in to a regional office who deployed the dredgers. Instead they will build walls higher and higher every year which is a bit like king Canute in the end they will lose as nature will always win. So work with nature and clear the waterways from being clogged in the first place by using dredging its simple really

  22. December 27, 2015 7:39 pm

    There seem to be so many things the authorities don’t talk about or even try to hide…. For example, here’s what I found about the winter of 1939 and how the weather was influenced by the naval warfare:

  23. Paul2 permalink
    December 27, 2015 9:52 pm

    • Barry permalink
      December 27, 2015 11:06 pm

      Well there’s a very good answer to this isn’t their and it involves the words immigration limits

      • Barry F permalink
        December 29, 2015 10:05 am

        Last year, 336,000 people entered Britain (that’s the official figure, of course, so we can reckon on it being much higher, but let’s go with 360,000). If you take 50 building weeks in a year, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, it means that we would have to complete a new home every 20 seconds JUST to house the immigrants alone.

  24. December 27, 2015 11:37 pm

    It would be nice if we had some hard data about the depth of the river channel at certain points over time – so we had some hard evidence of the effect of the anti-dredging EU directive. I wonder if there are any people who used to work on the dredgers reading this and if they have access to any records that detail the old dredging schedule and depths vs the current neglectful situation??

    • Barry permalink
      December 27, 2015 11:45 pm

      I think you will find that this was done on a need to do it schedual and it was the experience of the men doing it as to how deep it was to be dug and local knowledge that sadly over the 30 year period has been lost . but as a swimmer in the cam that is around Cambridgeshire fens they used to dredge the river where our boat was to about 10 ft and every 3 years they would come back and dig down to that depth again I don’t know how much they took out but it looked quite a substantial amount and stank to high hell but it was good fertilizer for the fields round there

    • keeffromlondon permalink
      December 28, 2015 1:25 pm

      John Redwood has an article on this subject today. I think this comment from Martyn G, a volunteer lock keeper on the Thames, will be of interest: .

      I very much agree with Chilli that real hard data on flow rates, channel depths and so on, would be very valuable in really understanding what is going on.

      I also had a look to see if there are any management plans for some of the rivers that have flooded recently. The EA has a set here: This links to plans for individual rivers, such as the Ouse: .

      I had a look through a couple of these. They seem to be missing anything about costs, impacts (ie how the rivers and flooding are expected to change as a result of the plan), and specific actions. I guess there must be more detailed, low level plans somewhere, but I haven’t found them.

      • choddo permalink
        December 28, 2015 10:18 pm

        I see our friendly “assistant to the lock keppers mate” says “we haven’t had a great deal of rain recently” – I modestly enquire whether he has been living in a cave for 4 months?

      • December 29, 2015 11:29 am

        Actually he’s right!

        Most of the rain has fallen in a very small area in the NW.

  25. Dave Couzens permalink
    December 28, 2015 9:44 am

    So we have learned nothing from the floods on the Somerset levels where lack of dredging and turning flood plains into permanent wetland habitats was a major factor.
    We can only conclude that the floods were caused deliberately and someone should be held to account.

    • Barry permalink
      December 28, 2015 11:44 am

      Spot on

  26. December 28, 2015 10:01 am

    Reblogged this on Paul J Chapman and commented:
    Like it or not, pernicious EU regulations and directives are EVERYWHERE . . .

    • Barry permalink
      December 28, 2015 10:36 am

      Exept outside the EU . all this is done for is for Merkel and junker to tell the UK what to do because merkel runs a country that lost two wars against the UK and they want to control us financially and by passing our laws so effectively taking over the UK by negotiation and imposition politically because they couldn’t do it by force

  27. December 28, 2015 12:12 pm

    A hefty fine
    1524 Court rolls of Henbury,
    Stoke Gyfford,
    And the common water-course at Whitelesyate under Le Parke corner.
    Penalty against lies flooding by neglect by Juliana Baker. She is ordered to scour that water course by the next view under penalty of 6s. 8d.

  28. Vanessa permalink
    December 28, 2015 1:42 pm

    This piece should be posted up on every front door of those flooded properties for the owners to read. Not just in Cumbria etc. but right across the country. This is the EU as “our” wonderful greedy government and its ludicrous directives for you – we need to leave !

  29. Mike Hamblet permalink
    December 28, 2015 2:46 pm

    There is no point in dredging when the channel is reduced by built environment; it just makes flooding worse. It also wrecks the natural environment. There’s conflict building between residents and farmers; one-sided arguments don’t solve anything.

    • Barry permalink
      December 29, 2015 12:14 am

      Mike have you had your head in the fast flowing flood water by any chance ? If you have a deeper chanel that means it can take more water before it bursts its banks if the channel is clear instead of being blocked by reeds detritus from fish and silt as well as other aquatic plants the water can flow faster all this is basic physics when the river gets to more open territory in open countryside then all the plants and aquatic life can be left to grow without to much hindrance as long as the depth is maintained and the width of the flowing channel this way not only do the floods become rarer but the animal life thrives because oxygenated water is water that flows more , more oxygen more wildlife better environment for everyone concerned including the wildlife

      • MFKBoulder permalink
        December 29, 2015 2:46 pm

        In case the river runs faster as you described it for a deeper “clean” channel, the peak of the flood is generally higher, since the runoff will be more “concentrated”: even higher dams would not help.
        In case of a more “natural” river bed, peak flow is stretched over a longer time span and thus the flood peak is considerable lower and the water mass can be managed with lower dams. Of course this is only true for flooding which can be contained by the active river bed / flood plains. In case you built obstructive bridges, functioning as obstacles for the flood, you should have chosen the right construction material.

      • Mike Hamblet permalink
        December 29, 2015 6:19 pm

        Barry you seem pretty desperate to overstate your ideas. Perhaps you could explain your personal situation. Your points seem to support farmers against the people with ruined homes.

    • Barry permalink
      December 29, 2015 7:14 pm

      Not at all but having spent half my life on a river then I know that dredging the river bed had worked well and by not dredging river beds just slows the flow of a river by allowing growth of aquatic plants reed beds and silt build up. So when there’s more water to deal with after a storm then the water has half the depth of river chanel to flow through. So it bursts its banks that much quicker if the chanel was deeper then the water would flow down the chanel without bursting the banks. When you had lock keepers at every lock years ago they would keep a eye on the level and the flow of the water if the water was at flood threat level then they opens the lock gates at both ends of the lock and lowered the sluice gates on the weirs which allowed maximum flow to the sea this also prevented flooding on all levels of the river. But since dredging has now been outlawed on all inland waterways by the EU when we get a deluge of water it dosnt have a chanel to flow down and bursts the rivers banks then because the river is spaced over a wider area it slows down quite a lot thus waterlogging the entire area so that if like in Cumbria Lancashire and York the water has nowhere to go then it rains more ant the level rises again because the speed of water has slowed significantly. If we had deeper channels and did as was done traditionally then the water would be gone a dam site faster and wouldn’t waterlog the surrounding land so if it did flood which would be very rare it would only flood for a few hours possibly a couple of days not for a few months as happened in the Somerset levels last year. Like I said I spent most of my life on the fenland waterways this was how they did things when the NRA ran the system and it worked and worked well now we have the EA dealing with it they havnt got a clue about these things because they try to run the system from offices in London one of the most protected cities in the world from flooding. These type of decisions on dredging and keeping the waterways maintained should be left to the local people that have the specialist knowledge of their areas and of their rivers and building walls and flood defences instead of dredging deeper channels is daft because each year the rivers will get shallower the water will burst the rivers banks with less and less rainfall. Eventually the river beds will be building up the insides of the glass wall in Kendal and the river bed will be higher than the streets that its protecting from floods then the authority will have to build a taller glass wall to cope with the water

  30. December 28, 2015 4:42 pm

    Hello, I’m a bit of a Cumbria history buff and was wondering if you had a source for the following statement from the post?

    “In nineteenth century Cockermouth they came up with an ingenious way of doing this. Any able-bodied man seeking bed and board for the night in the workhouse was required to take a shovel and wheelbarrow down to the River Derwent and fetch back two barrow-loads of gravel for mending the roads. This had the triple benefit of dredging the river, maintaining the roads and making indigent men useful”.

    Many thanks

  31. December 28, 2015 8:34 pm

    The AGW lobby are capitalising magnificently without exactly “being dishonest”. The press are full of how this flooding is “consistent with AGW” (sorry climate change). I have seen no mention of the dredging issue in the reports that I have seen……

    Had a terrific debate with an educated friend the other night, he is a fervent believer and has read a lot of the literature. His main argument is that “the balance of probabilities is that the increased CO2 is a risk”. Obviously I could not convert him, but info that I have taken from Paul’s articles have given him something to think about. Makes me aware of the power of brainwashing!

  32. Geo permalink
    December 28, 2015 8:41 pm

    As a foreigner fro the low countries who walked and loved northern England and Cumbria all the political talk to me is just talk. Blaming the EU or the government is just that – blaming someone, nothing else. it does not resolve any question nor does it alleviate worries.
    My view simply is this: if I walk along Langdale in Cumbria I see a valley 2 miles wide with a little trickle of a 2 meter wide river in the middle. And I wonder: why is Langdale valley 2 miles wide ? Because that little river MADE it 2 miles wide once, and it now does again… In the flood areas we see valleys where towns and houses are built in just such valleys, because people thought the little river in the middle would aways stay the same… And it does not. Pardon my Dutch for being simplistic.
    These little rivers are now the problem, with a changing climate and more precipitation.
    No political dogmas or preconceptions will change that. Working together may help, though.

    • Barry permalink
      December 29, 2015 12:58 pm

      The reason langdale valley is 2 miles wide might have something to do with glacial ice moving across the Cumbrian fells and taking soft rock with it but leaving the harder grannet hence why the bally is that width its got nothing to do with the river so learn a bit of UK geology before you make silly comments. As you’ve said you come from the low countries of Europe correct me if I’m wrong but wernt these reclaimed from the north sea so don’t possess mountainous regions

  33. December 28, 2015 11:45 pm

    The globe can be getting warmer or colder, but the idea that the human contribution from burning carbon fuels has anything to do with it is not only IMHO the biggest political and intellectual fraud ever – but so says the IPCC itself. To leave no doubt, in an interview published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on 14 November 2010, Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III and Deputy Director and Chief Economist of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research (PIK), is quoted saying: “The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War…. one must say clearly that de facto we redistribute the world’s wealth by climate policy…. One has to rid oneself of the illusion that international climate politics have anything to do with environmental concerns.”

    For more details copy into Google or other browser.

    • December 28, 2015 11:51 pm

      The words IDIOT GUIDE TO GLOBAL WARMING between ‘copy’ and ‘into’ were lost in my above comment for unknown reasons – let me try again.

  34. CAROLE Hastings permalink
    December 29, 2015 9:01 am

    When the floods in the Somerset levels happened afterwards the ditches were dredged did they suffer any consequences from the E U. ? As they were altering the land by clearing the natural build up .

  35. Hazel White permalink
    December 29, 2015 1:25 pm

    …return to the dark ages?

  36. Mike Hamblet permalink
    December 29, 2015 6:39 pm

    Its awful that the tragedy for people with homes in the flood plain should be hijacked by Ukippers and Brexits witheir ranting attacks on immigrants, EU, EA and anything else that doesn’t fit their blinkered views. Offer rational solutions or butt-out, please.

    • December 29, 2015 11:02 pm

      Who mentioned immigrants?

      The question is very simple – should UK floods policy be decided by the UK, or should we obey EU diktats?

  37. Barry permalink
    December 29, 2015 6:42 pm

    John b
    You have misunderstood what I was saying yes we might be feeding more people than ever before. But at what cost? What I was saying is that science and survival knowledge has proved that after the human population hit 3 billion people on the planet the actual life that humans were living had to change to a farming existence from a hunter gatherer existance. This was the critical point that the world was thrown out of balance and with the population now at 7billion and growing we are so far from the natural original coherence with nature that we had because we have to change the land use from natural river and wetland environment to cope with this amount of people living on the planet that includes dredging and all the other stuff that the eco freakos and the EU don’t like. I was merely pointing out that to go back to this way of life would need drastic action of depopulation of humans and the food we eat to bring the world back to the original balance of nature as this won’t happen then we have to continue to operate in a world that uses dredging and the artificial farming techniques that we employ

  38. Mike Hamblet permalink
    December 29, 2015 8:08 pm

    I’ve also spent half my life on the river, but have a much broader view of the solutions. Dredging has been largely discounted as a useful solution and it really does put the townspeople in greater danger of faster and higher peak flows. Please read some of what George Monbiot has written on the subject of causes and mitigation. Ps, the article above is written by an ex sheep farmer and gives no attention to flooding in the river towns.

    • Barry permalink
      December 29, 2015 9:14 pm

      What artical if you mean me I’ve had nothing to do with farming at all. Don’t know what river you’ve lived on but if dredging wasn’t part of its maintenance and if you still live there expect more flooding untill it gets dredged and stop listening to the idiot scientists of the EU and EA and stop listening to the EAs properganda cause it will cost your home again and again

  39. J Martin permalink
    December 29, 2015 10:04 pm

    Moonbat in the Guardian makes a good point about the loss of valuable farming soil.

  40. Martin permalink
    December 30, 2015 10:08 am

    Interesting article, thank you. I found this:

  41. Peter Gould permalink
    January 1, 2016 12:34 pm

    it should not be too hard to get this Euro Directive up in lights so everyone knows and especially those who have been flooded out can start shouting at the idiotic fools running the UK who are meekly accepting Brussels directives!!!

    • Mike Hamblet permalink
      January 1, 2016 6:20 pm

      I hope you’re aware that Consevative and UKIP MEPs did not vote against these EU regulations.

      • January 1, 2016 8:21 pm

        Which UKIP MEP’s voted for it?

        Or is this just a load of hot air?

  42. Richard Brown permalink
    January 3, 2016 6:21 am

    This is a correct analysis of this type of problem. Another way of highlighting previous generations wisdom ( AD 600 to 1400) is this.

    This was before the rennaissance and science got going and is in an indication that previous generations knew where to found buildings.

  43. rangeley permalink
    January 3, 2016 6:47 pm

    To anyone who thinks dredging a river prevents flooding I ask: if you have heavy traffic flowing along a five-lane road which at some point up ahead funnels to one lane, how much difference will it make to the traffic jam if you widen the five lane bit to six lanes, or seven, but leave the one-lane bit at one lane? None.

    Same with rivers. Rivers aren’t lakes, just like roads aren’t car-parks. In rainfall of the type we’ve been having floods aren’t caused by a lack of channel capacity, they are caused by a lack of flow capacity: and this is limited by bridges and weirs and most of all by towns and cities, not by the meandering, pool and riffle shape of a natural river.

    You’d have thought a shepherd would understand that. You can fit a lot of sheep in a field, but they won’t all get out the gate at once.

    • January 3, 2016 6:52 pm

      A good analogy!

      The real answer is to do something at the one-lane bit, where there is a bottleneck. The classic instance of this is Cockermouth.

      In more general terms, it makes sense to dredge downstream of problem areas, and not upstream (always aware that downstream for one place is upstream of another!)

      • rangeley permalink
        January 3, 2016 8:18 pm

        But dredging does nothing in the face of floods like these: it might keep average high flows inside the banks instead of outside (even then it is unsustainable, needing constant maintenance) but the flows that flood cities would not be accommodated by a dredged river.

        Say you have a cross-section of floodplain of 100 x 100 meters. A hectare. Say the river running through it is ten meters wide and a meter deep. Double it’s depth (which would be massive dredging, by the way) and over 100 meters you’ve added only 1000 cubic meters capacity, which is the equivalent of only 10 cm of water over that flood-plain.

        These floods lapping the roofs of cars, filling houses half-way up the ground floor: that is far, far more water than a dredged river could ever accommodate.

        Factor in flow, the fact that the issue is not river capacity at all, but how much and how quickly water is coming down the hill and ‘dredging’ very quickly looks like a sop measure to make people feel like something’s being done.

        In fact it’s an insult to those who have been flooded to suggest that something as crass and ineffective as dredging will solve the problem. Those people deserve intelligent new and imaginative solutions, not the same old prescriptions that don’t work.

      • January 3, 2016 8:51 pm

        None of what you say addresses the issues faced in somewhere like Cockermouth, where there is a bottleneck where two rivers join, and waters build up because of silt and gravel.

        Your “old “solutions worked in the past.

        Nobody is saying dredging will solve every problem, we have always had floods, but it must be part of the solution.

  44. Peter Zarecky permalink
    March 15, 2016 9:20 pm

    As a child i played near the riverbank, frequently aware of the dredgers clearing the river bed. This was the Thames at Sandford, yes at times it broke its banks but there were flood defenses in place which made it always passable. It was a deep river in this area, and really quite intimidating, however when i went there with our dogs a few years ago it was only a few feet deep.
    Of course we should adopt a determined policy to dredge all flood risk rivers, but we should also re-instate ditches around fields and appreciate that that which our ancestors knew to be common sense is just that…
    In early adulthood I remember a film called ‘Soylent Green’. the essence of the film suggested to me that mankind will cease to populate the planet, but instead will infest it with unsustainable numbers. We have options,. Embrace the common sense demonstrated to us by those who preceded us, and dispose of the Liberal regulations whether imposed by the EU or our own idiots, the alternative might be a policy of conserve the Badgers and the Insects that occupy the river bed and CULL THE PEOPLE>

  45. David Lloyd permalink
    April 13, 2016 7:17 am

    Regarding dredging NOT helping avoid floods.

    Imagine the UK had a three year drought (stay with me here) and the Thames dried up to a trickle, 20 cm wide, 2 cm deep. Wow say the local planners, etcetera. We can make use of that land now. We will replace the Thames with a one meter wide, one metre deep channel.

    We can build homes near the ‘correctly resized’ river channel.

    Then.. the weather returns to normal. The one meter wide, one meter deep channel floods instantly (of course it does).

    But – say the experts “Dredging wont help flooding, it will actually make it worse”. (i.e. putting the river back to it’s original size before the drought will actually “make flooding worse”.

    If this sounds absurd to you – it should. Dredging does not perhaps create the correct image for solving flooding. Maybe a better term is “re-engineering” a river.It is painfully obvious. Embarrassingly obvious even that a very wide, deep river will carry more water than a one meter wide, one meter deep river. Children know this. Ask them.

    Anyone who says that this is not the case is a complete idiot (see above extreme example). Or being deliberately misleading.

    Especially when the same “experts” say dredging wont help, then approve flood defences which raise the height of river banks in towns. Excuse me, you have just allowed the river to carry a greater capacity of water. You have made it bigger. It’s the same as re engineering it. It’s the same as dredging it you idiots.

    So, in summary:
    * Make all UK rivers twice as deep and twice as wide immediately. See what that does. Yes it will cost money.
    * If that’s still no good – add extra rivers. There are several ways to do this – underground tunnels, building dykes on agricultural land to make temporary river channels, or just buy land and add new river channels. Making new rivers is exactly what nature does when rainfall increases significantly. Again it’s painfully obvious. Where did the Amazon come from exactly? Yes it will cost money.

    Or we can listen to the experts, and when half the country floods again, we can remind ourself that dredging doesn’t stop floods as we watch our possessions, our livestock – our very lives – wash away.

    And finally, the Dutch have re engineered their entire country. I lived there for three years. Their attitude to dealing with water simply works and keeps the country safe. Compared to the Dutch approach to dealing with water management our governments attitude, commitment and credibility are all utterly non existent. The Dutch solve their water problems. The UK just sticks it’s head in the sand and shoves it’s fingers in it’s ears.

    Oh yes, all the work the Dutch have done cost money. Lots of it.

  46. Syd Scott permalink
    September 15, 2016 7:39 pm

    Hello Phillip, long time since we last met, Syd Scott from Freshwinds Lorton if you remember that was a long time ago,still a few of the old ones left in Lorton and what about your self saw mam & Dad at mom’s 90th
    birthday at the Trout Hotel that was about 11yrs ago now. Would like to make contact if it suites Kind regards Syd.


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