Surviving the floodwaters

We have just endured a spell of exceptionally wet weather that has been hard work for both people and wildlife.

Although they are adapted to their watery environment and used to periodic flooding, our water voles will undoubtedly have suffered from the recent flooding of Lambrok Stream. At its highest, the flood will have washed away water vole burrows and the stream’s reed fringes that provide them with cover. The force of the water may have actually displaced the voles, washing them downstream and leaving them vulnerable to predation in environments far from their home burrows.

This is one of the places where the needs of our wildlife come up against the demands of agricultural, the undeniable right of a farmer to make a living from his land, and the county’s obligation to provide homes for our growing population.

flooding in the park by Clive Knight

Natural flood management upstream such as reducing rainfall run-off from farm land, restoring bends and pools in the stream, and replanting bankside vegetation, would all contribute to slowing the rush of flood water through our water vole colony. But a flood plain upstream would be at the cost of the farmer whose fields would be inundated; restored riparian vegetation will reduce field size; fencing livestock away from the stream’s banks may well involve the cost of installing a drinking trough. Proper buffering against the run-off from the sites alongside the stream that have been allocated for housing development, will mean less land for houses, fewer houses built and less profit for developers.

water vole, scarce chaser and beautiful demoiselle, all dependent on the stream

If the park’s water voles and Odonata are to survive the dangers of frequent flooding by rainwater that has been hurried, as fast as possible, off the fields, out of the village and away from housing estate gardens, roads and driveways, there needs to be a coherent plan for the whole Lambrok catchment.

Wiltshire Council is a signatory to the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership (BACP) and has undertaken to: improve water and flood risk management to reduce and slow run-off from rural and urban land. As the council reworks the policies for the proposed sites allocated for housing around Trowbridge, this could be a good time for an integrated plan for the whole Lambrok catchment area that takes in the housing needs of Trowbridge and Southwick, the legal obligations of Wiltshire Council to both and the BACP, and the needs of Southwick Country Park’s wildlife.

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