Dartmoor Headwaters Natural Flood Management Project

Dartmoor Headwaters Natural Flood Management Project

This pilot project, a partnership between Dartmoor National Park Authority and the Environment Agency, is trialling the effectiveness of using natural river processes, land management techniques and soft engineering approaches to slow down and store water to help reduce the risk of flooding downstream. This is an alternative to the more traditional hard engineering approach.

The project is running from 2018 – 2021 and will focus on the Rivers Mardle, Dean Burn, Colly Brook and Blackbrook catchments and the Hanger Down area of the river Erme catchment. These five sub-catchments have been chosen as they are all small in size (all less than 13km²) and are steep with a rapid onset of flooding, all having flooded in recent years.

Within the 5 pilot areas chosen there are 84 properties at risk of flooding from the main river with even more at risk from surface run-off.


Dartmoor is often subject to rapid flash flooding events, which are caused by a combination of the region's topography and being hit by rain fronts coming in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Downstream of Dartmoor’s moorland landscape are many towns and villages with properties at risk of flooding during flash flood events. A combination of the geology, changing weather patterns and long established land management practices means that soils are not absorbing and storing water efficiently, leading to excessive run-off and erosion.

The Objectives

The objectives are to work in collaboration with landowners to identify opportunities to slow down, store and divert water, using local labour to carry out the work wherever possible. This may include:

  • Addressing compacted soils
  • Floodplain reconnection
  • Tree planting
  • Peatland restoration
  • Leaky dams
  • New hedge banks
  • Wetland creation
  • River restoration and buffering

Wider benefits of this work include; improved water quality, reduced sedimentation, enhanced biodiversity and better carbon storage.

Further information

Watch this 6 minute film for more information on Natural Flood Management and other similar projects.

Watch 'High Water Common Ground'

A series of useful summary sheets are available to download from the Environment Agency website (opens in new window).

Latest updates

See our June 2020 newsletter (PDF) for the latest project updates

    Contact Kerry Smith, Dartmoor Headwaters Natural Flood Management Project Officer on 01626 831027 or email DartmoorNFM@environment-agency.gov.uk.

    The project is funded by the Environment Agency through 'Flood Defence Grant in Aid', with contributions or contributions in kind from: Dartmoor National Park Authority, Environment Agency, Highways England, Plymouth University, Devon County Council, Devon Wildlife Trust, Moor Trees, West Country Rivers Trust, Forestry Commission, Natural England.

    In partnership with

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