The Giant Blue Sock from Somerset was described in Farming Today. Hills to Levels is a scheme to control run-off from higher ground, before it reaches the Somerset Levels and floods with the disastrous effects of the Atlantic winter storms that began in December 2013. I remember looking down on floodwaters whilst we drove in pursuit of a murmuration of starlings, that spectacular winter roosting. Hills to Levels. On higher ground, an inflatable giant sock some thirty metres long is filled with compost. It will hold water and filter out nutrients from the farmers’ fields, so they are not lost. The sock absorbs and holds a massive volume of water. Slow the flow. Pump up the sock and make a barrier. The Somerset experience might help Cumbria in the drawing-up of a long-term action plan.
My new book, Cumbrian Contrasts, is this week gone to be printed . Out later in February 2016. Hurray! Some of the most beautiful images displayed are of sphagnum moss essential to the ecology of peat bog. It’s structure is intricate, it’s bright and colourful. And it’s crucial for carbon storage and flood prevention, as I’ve often written. It sops up and holds water, somewhat like the Giant Sock. But lovely to look at which perhaps the sock is not.
Blanket bog which is an important habitat in Cumbria. Farmers, like the Hodgsons at Glencoyne in Patterdale, are proud of the fells they manage, the heather fells of wonderful biodiversity. Gowbarrow Fell and Sheffield Pike are fells wonderful for sphagna. Where there’s erosion in these peat moorlands replanting is sometimes needed. And plant trees. Slow the rivers down. Let them meander, that’s the natural way a flood-plain works. And if you want farmers to let pastures act as a flood plain and a reservoir then compensate them for the crops they will lose as a result.
Horizon: What’s Wrong with Our Weather?
Thinking of peat bog, my thoughts drifted to a summer day when I found myself floundering. What do you do if you fall in? Swimming with drowned sheep shares the experience.