A PROJECT designed to showcase natural flood management techniques is taking place at Holcombe Moor.

The works, which will help slow the flow of flood water to areas such as Irwell Vale, Strongstry, Chatterton, Ramsbottom and the high risk Radcliffe and Redvales, will also restore peatland at the popular beauty spot and focus on numerous, small-scale, ‘slow-the flow’ interventions that will help protect properties from the risk of flooding.

Moorland fires, erosion and localised overgrazing have all damaged the peat surface.

The River Irwell catchment area extends from the moors above Bacup to the Manchester Ship Canal, in central Manchester. The river is approximately 39 miles (63km) long with the climate of the catchment area wetter than the UK average and rivers quickly responding to rainfall.

Stone dams will be erected in eroded gullies to restrict the flow of flood water with helicopters used to transport stones from a nearby quarry.

Sphagnum moss will also be reintroduced to allow the top layers of the peat to retain more water.

The venture forms part of the £40m Radcliffe and Redvales Flood Risk Management Scheme after £476,000 of additional Defra funding was made available.

Peter Costello, area flood and coastal risk manager for the Environment Agency said: “The commitment of multiple agencies to work together and explore nature based solutions alongside traditional flood defences, is a powerful component of Greater Manchester’s response to the Climate Emergency.

"There has already been some fantastic work delivered in partnership across the River Irwell catchment over the years to help slow the flow of floodwaters using natural flood risk management techniques. But we need to do more. We hope that our work at Holcombe Moor will be a catalyst for more of these measures to be installed across Greater Manchester catchments.”

During December 2015 the upper moorland part of the catchment experienced unprecedented heavy rainfall.  In addition to this, overnight from Christmas Day into Boxing Day a further heavy band of rain fell on this already saturated catchment which resulted in an enormous quantity of water being released into the river channel in a relatively short time period of time. This resulted in catastrophic flooding throughout the catchment with over 1,500 properties flooded, over 700 of these being in Radcliffe and Redvales.

A £40m flood risk management scheme is currently being constructed in Radcliffe and Redvales in partnership with the Environment Agency and Bury Council. Construction is currently in Phase 2 and will protect up to 800 properties upon completion.

Matt Scott-Campbell, programme manager for conservation and land management at Moors for the Future Partnership, said: “With extreme weather events becoming more frequent, the valuable opportunity and need for healthy peatlands to slow the flow of water into the valleys below becomes more and more important.

"This project will have biodiversity, carbon capture and natural flood management outcomes, directly linking the benefits of a healthy upland landscape to downstream communities at risk of flooding in Rossendale and Greater Manchester. The restoration of degraded peatlands can make an important contribution to reducing flood risk, whilst also achieving other valuable benefits, for example this project will also improve the capacity of Holcombe Moor to absorb carbon, supporting our efforts to respond to the climate emergency.”

The natural flood management project forms part of the Environment Agency’s overall vision to develop flood management schemes that will not only reduce the risks to local communities, but also tackle climate change through carbon capture and new habitats for wildlife. The works on Holcombe Moor are expected to restore the capacity of peatland to absorb carbon and improve blanket bog habitat, which in turn will help the recovery of breeding moorland bird like golden plover and dunlin.