Somerset Levels no dredge toad pontificates from afar - or trust local community?

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Feb 4 17:46:00 GMT 2014

Having spoken to locals I'm quite clear.
Over decades silt builds up and up and up so 
trees start growing several yards out from the banks - locals have pix
Volume of water escaping to the sea for the 12 
hours every day around low tides is up between 3 
and 4 times with dredging. much greater cross 
section = much greater water flowing out.
Nobody seems to have picked up on the glaring 
fact that the Environmnet Agency sluice is CLOSED 
when it should be open - broken - stuck - nobody seems to know.
Did anybody here have a look at the video I shot?
Rather too easy to have a Chris Smith style view from afar.

I do wonder what land rghts activists are up to saying anything other than
Let the people who live there, only a few of 
which are farmers of course, manage the levels flood budget however they want.


At 00:13 02/02/2014, david bangs wrote:
>I think George M, Simon F, and Rob's 
>contributions have been good and convincing.
>Just to say...a very large proportion of the 
>Somerset Levels (the southern moors like West 
>Sedgemoor, Kings Sedgemoor, Wet Moor etc; the 
>middle moors, like Westhay and Tealham Moors 
>etc) are SSSIs, and some sites are National Nature Reserves.
>I'm a long way away, but I don't hear enough 
>defending this statutory national interest 
>compared to wot I hear from reactionary MPs, Owen Paterson, and farmers.
>There's a good article on the attempts to 
>staunch the steep decline of breeding waders on 
>the Levels in the latest 'British Wildlife' 
>(ironically titled 'Farewell to the Silver 
>Meadows ?' Vol 25, Dec 2013, pages 77 - 84), in 
>which it's made clear that much of the critical 
>wildlife interest has shrunk back to the 
>conservation-owned nature reserves, DESPITE the 
>statutory protection of so much of the wider Levels.
>Many folk will remember the appalling 
>farmer-conservationist clashes of thirty plus 
>years ago over drainage in the Levels, after 
>which which some amelioration of the worst 
>farmer / drainage board practices was made.
>It's not just changes in upstream farming that 
>need to take place (as all three above have suggested).
>I, for one, can't take the prescriptions of 
>angry Levels farmers seriously (dredge and 
>dredge) when its impossible to separate their 
>contributions from the feeling that their own 
>farming practices are damaging and anti-social,
>Dave Bangs
>----- Original Message -----
>From: <mailto:chapter7 at>Simon Fairlie
>To: <mailto:diggers350 at>diggers350 at
>Sent: Saturday, February 01, 2014 5:32 PM
>Subject: [Diggers350] Fwd: Somerset levels - 
>monks that dug them knew undredged rivers do not drain
>Begin forwarded message:
>>From: ReedMace <<mailto:reedmace at>reedmace at>
>>Date: 1 February 2014 15:30:30 GMT
>>To: Simon Fairlie <<mailto:chapter7 at>chapter7 at>
>>Subject: Re: Somerset levels - monks that dug 
>>them knew undredged rivers do not drain
>>Perhaps you can post it on my behalf.
>>Speaking as a professional hydrologist there 
>>are merits on all sides of the argument. 
>>Clearly it is an emotive subject, particularly 
>>for those experiencing the flooding at the 
>>moment. However, I'm not sure emotive language and insults help anyone.
>>The main issues are of scale and importance. 
>>Although I don't know the Somerset Levels well, 
>>I do know the Fens - a similarly engineered expanse of very flat drains.
>>The Levels are man-made and therefore cannot be 
>>directly compared to natural catchments whereby 
>>water flows through the soil structure towards 
>>the lowest point, as they do in the upper 
>>catchments. Likewise the channels have been 
>>artificially created/widened. But because the 
>>area is flat, flow occurs, not due to the 
>>gradient in the river bed, but the gradient in 
>>the water level. This is how pumping works - it 
>>artificially lowers the water level at one 
>>location creating a surface (or energy) 
>>gradient that allows water to move towards it. 
>>A head (difference in water levels) is 
>>therefore required in order for flow to take place between two points.
>>In this type of situation, dredging will help a 
>>little, but only by increasing storage - it 
>>does not increase the energy gradient. This is 
>>George Monbiot's point. The better solutions by 
>>far are to do with changes in upstream land 
>>use, retaining soil on the land and improving 
>>soil structure, as both George and Simon say. 
>>Undertaken over reasonably large areas these 
>>activities will retain water longer in the 
>>upper catchment, while it is still widely 
>>distributed, rather than trying to deal with it 
>>once it is all concentrated in the water 
>>course. Note that any tree planting undertaken 
>>in this regard must not be done by ploughing 
>>perpendicular to the contours (as is Forestry 
>>Commision practice). This will result in the 
>>opposite effect, creating hundreds of 
>>additional drainage conduits straight downhill 
>>in the upper catchment that wil significantly 
>>increase the rate of catchment response to 
>>rainfall, exacerbating the situation downstream.
>>More drains won't help either because they 
>>won't increase the discharge capacity of the 
>>system - only the available storage - which, as 
>>George points out, is minuscule compared to the 
>>volume of flood water. The monks built the 
>>drains, not to cope with flooding from the 
>>upper catchment, but to drain the local soils 
>>so they could grow wool and food. It's a bit 
>>like saying we need a few extra minis to 
>>evacuate a city. Of course there is always the 
>>option of building vast concrete trapezoidal 
>>channels for the water, which is what has been 
>>done in the Fens (and in places like Jeddah and 
>>Kuwait City to cope with the sudden and enormous volumes of desert floods).
>>However, the fact that twice the average 
>>monthly rainfall has fallen in the wettest 
>>January on record actually also plays a small 
>>part in this. That is a LOT of water. To say 
>>the flooding is entirely a man-made disaster 
>>is, I hope, hyperbole (notwithstanding the 
>>rather banal comment that there's been 'no 
>>cloudburst or crazy storm'). But the solutions 
>>advocated in the farmer's article, I suggest, 
>>really wouldn't make much difference to the 
>>situation at all - the land is flat (that is, 
>>neither uphill nor downhill - no disrespect to 
>>Mr Temperley) and dredging 15 miles won't change that.
>>As for the claim that last year saw a 
>>once-in-a-lifetime flood, so we shouldn't have 
>>another one the next year, well that's often 
>>the way climate works and statistics don't. And 
>>it's no secret that climate statistics have 
>>been being broken on a fairly regular basis 
>>over the last 20 years. Are we experiencing a 
>>shift in the climate's underlying statistical 
>>distribution? I am just slightly surprised 
>>no-one has mentioned climate change - warmer, 
>>wetter winters are exactly what have been 
>>predicted since I first started working on 
>>climate-change impacts over 25 years ago.

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