Cairn Beck NFM project

Part of project: Natural flood management

This project kicked off in August 2018 with a scoping stage to identify natural flood management (NFM) opportunities throughout the Cairn Beck catchment funded by the Environment Agency (EA) as part of the national Defra NFM project.

Initially, the project involved scoping and landowner engagement to identify suitable NFM options and the development and implementation of the monitoring strategy to measure the effectiveness of these measures. This included the installation of rain gauges, measuring devices and time-lapse cameras.

During the summer of 2019, we installed eight leaky dams on Newbiggin Beck (see picture) and modified 15 leaky dams that we installed in 2016 in order to improve their performance as NFM measures.

Most recently we completed an ambitious river restoration project which involved restoring a section of 200m straightened channel to re-instate meanders, bars, riffles and pools along with secondary and tertiary channels and ponds. This has created more storage of water on the floodplain as well as slowing the flow of the water in the channel (see before and after pictures and video below).




The monitoring aspect of the project is critical in understanding the success of these measures, building knowledge of their effectiveness and supporting future NFM work. This includes:

Leaky dams site:
Four water level measuring devices have been installed at the leaky dams site:

  • Two bracketing the entire site i.e. one at the upstream end and one at the downstream end of the series of leaky dams
  • Two on one leaky dam i.e. one directly upstream and one directly downstream of one dam

Plus a tipping bucket rain gauge to record rainfall events.

Additionally, a PhD and an undergraduate student from Newcastle University are carrying out their research projects on this site.

Re-meandering site:
Two water level measuring devices at the upstream and downstream ends. Students from the University of Salford will be assessing the difference in hydrographs and typography from drone surveys.

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