The Function of the Floodplain

Est. Reading: 2 minutes

Following on from the incredibly mild conditions that prevailed until the very last day of 2015, winter is now firmly in the driving seat. Wet and cold conditions are to be expected but those on our television screens were terrible to see with so many rivers bursting out and flooding properties and bringing misery to hundreds of people.

As our demands on land resources continue to increase problems such as flooding will continue. It is no longer possible to provide a natural safeguard by planting trees on large areas of land to slow down the run off of water. Nowadays land drain remove excess water from arable fields and gullies drain vast areas covered with industry, tarmac and housing so the problem is here to stay and increasing expenditure will be required to keep the flood waters at bay.

In the past Sudbury was subject to inundation at times of very heavy precipitation. In 1947 huge accumulations of snow rapidly thawed in the Stour catchment and the resulting water completely overwhelmed the low lying streets of Sudbury adjacent to the river.

The flooding to properties in Sudbury led to the implementation of an alleviation scheme with major works being carried out in 1955 and 1956. The river was widened and meanders were cut out and the river channel straightened. Such were the volumes of mud deposited over the pastures that the trustees approached the river board in the spring of 1956 with a view to having the mud deposits fenced off and those deposits to be harrowed level as soon as possible. Alternative drinking facilities for the livestock were also to be provided. However, the important consideration was that the river board did not constrict the Stour between embankments in Sudbury. This allowed the flood plain to continue its timeless function as a temporary reservoir for excess water. Elsewhere this is no longer the case and trouble ensues when river levels rise to unprecedented levels.

The very fact that Sudbury still retains its flood plain pastures is through quirk of history in that common rights exist over those areas so that they could not be built on which is the fate of so many river flood plains. Hopefully Sudbury’s riverside pastures will still be functioning as a temporary reservoir for excess water for very many centuries to come for this will continue to provide great benefits to the town.



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