A million pounds of government money and a lot of government enthusiasm is waiting for proposals from landowners, contractors. environmental volunteers and/or anyone else with an idea for slowing the run-off from Dartmoor in hard rain.
Natural flood control has been the theme of the past decade and has probably been shown to work up to a point. For a meeting in Peter Tavy last week, the Environment Agency sent a long film with examples from everywhere and upbeat conclusions. But in questions afterwards, their man from Exeter summed up more cautiously: “We know it doesn’t actually make flooding worse but we are not yet sure how much better it makes it. “
However, there is no money for big concrete anyway just now and containment of water with environmental spin-off is one of the EA’s current reasons for being. It has another £15m for more trials nationally and Dartmoor can have about a million from various sources for works which could help slow the run-off into Walkhampton, Peter Tavy, Ivybridge, or Buckfastleigh, and rewild a bit into the bargain.
Approaches have been made but it has taken time to make the contacts and the window for funding is already half spent. Now the race is on to try to build “leaky dams”, supporting occasional ponds and bogs, plant thirsty trees, replace wire fences with Devon banks, etc, over the next two years. There is also a wish to try decompaction of some areas where the soil is “like concrete” according to the EA. Its reading is that the thin topsoils over rock have been trodden airless by increasing tonnages of cattle and people over the centuries since most of the trees went.
Decompaction of farmland, using giant forks, has been tried on some big fields before and seems to be a good idea but how to get the effect on moorland slopes has still to be worked out. However, there are a few notions, like strategic planting.
Funding is in place until March 2021, when everything is due to be paused for review.
Dartmoor National Park has appointed a dedicated officer for local liaison with the agency: Kerry Smith, on 01626 831027 or email dartmoorNFM@environment-agency.gov.uk/
She was at a meeting in Peter Tavy last week, attended by 30 or so locals including some from Walkhampton and round.
She and the EA’s Tom Dauben, guest speaker for the evening, said success would be measured to some extent by flow through the streams at the heart of each of the target areas – Blackbrook in Walkhampton, and Colly Brook in Peter Tavy, for example. According to global warming forecasts for Dartmoor rainfall, all the watercourses will be stretched to their limits in the near future, they said, and every hour gained before a peak flood would be a good investment.
ALSO ON THE COUNTRY SIDE ***
A recent Times obituary gave credit to the former government scientist David King, for having the nerve to order the enormous country-changing animal culls involved in the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic. Praise was also due to Tony Blair, according to the Times, for sticking with the strategy until the disease was bled out.
But a lot of farmers were never convinced and a clutch of distinguished scientists spoke up on their behalf in a letter which reminded us they had published a paper taking the policy apart in 2011.
They said: “Slaughter not only on infected premises, but also on all neighbouring farms, resulted in the unnecessary killing of thousands of healthy animals, caused considerable hardship and economic loss as well as generating further problems in an already complicated situation. The contiguous cull added nothing to the speed of control and created resentment that remains today.”
AND BY THE WAY ***
DON’T forget significant traffic disruption looking likely at the main crossroads next week, starting Mon. July 22, while Devon Highways does a top to bottom relay of Torbridge Road up to the Graybridge Road junction.
CHAGSTOCK this weekend, starring Fun Loving Criminals, Mad Dog McRea, Holy Moly & The Crackers …
MEANWHILE, some real rockin blues at Calstock Village Hall on Thursday – Aussie duo Hat Fitz and Cara – HEAREMHERE
Hatfitz & Cara
ALSO THURSDAY is Launceston Show and the opening of some sort of family festival at Port Eliot, Cornwall – “talks, music, food, activities”.
THIS SATURDAY, July 19: bit of a space special at Buckfastleigh Town Hall, where the pop-up local cinema has a talk on the summer sky lined up for 7.30 pm, followed by a screening of First Man, starring Ryan Gosling.
FOR INTEREST ROUND YER: West Devon councillors have been reporting on a litter pick at Yelverton which found “plastic gloves in large numbers from the petrol station – hundreds, often in bundles”. Jeff Moody of Tidy Tavi tells us they have seen similar pollution around the Morrisons garage in Tavistock. Here in The Shed, we can’t help thinking this amounts to an argument against dispensing free poo bags, which Horrabridge Parish Council is tempted to do. Fact is, any throwaways dispenser which sometimes delivers a handful instead of one is going to have a similar effect isn’t it?
Don’t forget to check for new announcements, and a new Cartoon Of The Week, on our POSTBOARD
And check our what’s on calendar for more events listings: HERE