Friends of the Lake District are working with the University of Cumbria on a research project that could have far-reaching consequences for our flood-hit county. The Friends have agreed to host the trial on their land at High Borrowdale, with the support of funding provided by United Utilities, and, led by the university’s Dr Lois Mansfield, a team of Friends volunteers have helped to put in place the groundwork for this vital study.
The test site lies to the east of the A6 in the Crookdale Beck valley, a location that has witnessed numerous landslips and consequent damage to the farmland. The research is seeking to find the best material to help stabilise the steep sided valley, encouraging the growth of new vegetation and trees and thus preventing further destruction of the habitat.
The three-year trial will see three different types of material used as matting for the purpose – sisal, coir and jute – to identify the most successful one for this application, stabilising the landscape, reducing surface run-off and minimising landslide events, but in an effective and environmentally friendly way.
Dr Mansfield, principal lecturer in the Department of Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies at the University of Cumbria, said: “Erosion is a major issue in Cumbria and many other upland areas; direct soil loss means an area’s ability to maintain and develop habitats is hindered so anything we can do to prevent or at least reduce erosion will have benefits for the county and potentially other areas.
“It is particularly important at present with regard to increasing incidents of flooding. We are testing sisal alongside more traditional coir and jute solutions for the first time to see if the former is more effective. Using a naturally-occurring product rather than plastic brings other environmental benefits too.”
Dr Mansfield believes that unlike plastic-based alternatives, which are currently widely used, sisal has the potential to be significantly more effective, as it is water absorbent, and considerably more environmentally friendly, being made from natural, biodegradable materials.
Regular photographic monitoring work will also be carried out by Friends of the Lake District volunteers. If this trial is successful, this best practice will be rolled out to land managers across the Lake District and Cumbria.
A spokesperson for Friends of the Lake District commented:
“We hope that this will be at the leading edge of research that would help inform actions relating to flood recovery and climate change mitigation. We will be contributing not only the use of our property, our time and our volunteers’ time in monitoring, but also money kindly donated by members to our Flood Recovery Appeal.”
Video: On a very windy day in the Lake District, Dr Mansfield explains the theory behind the research project.