The flooding in south Yorkshire has been in the news a lot. As others have pointed out, the flooding of a place called Fishlake is written in its name.
I’m interested in the contribution made by grouse moor management, both burning and drainage, to flooding but I don’t know much about the Don. Fishlake is a long way from any grouse moors, and I’m not an expert. So I was interested to see Professor Ian Rotherham, who is local, and is a bit of an expert quoted in this BBC piece as saying this (amongst other things);
This water is coming from the uplands, it is coming from the Peak District, from the Pennines, and what we have had there is the massive removal of peat by cutting, the burning of heather moorland and of course drainage, and instead of holding the water back in the uplands, it shoots downstream.
All the way along we have straightened the rivers and drained the flood lands. The water rushes down. It is not being held back and it spews out across the lowlands and that’s what happened here.https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-50393617
Now there is good science that supports this general contention and has been for many years. I can’t comment on the likelihood of this being what’s happening in this particular case but it certainly seems possible. And the flooding seems to be a very localised thing – for example Walshaw Moor is not very far from the northern edge of the Peak District and yet I’ve seen no reports of flooding there, though I’m sure it must have rained (though maybe nowhere near as much?).
What is possible is to look at some of the headwaters of the Don and look at land use up there in the Peak District, miles and miles from Fishlake and other affected places.
This wikipedia page tells us quite a lot about the Don catchment and you’ll notice that there are several reservoirs eg Snailsden, Midhope, Langsett etc) which feed the river. What is the land use around those upland reservoirs I wonder?
Here are Langsett and Midhope reservoirs;
…and they clearly are situated in an area of intensive heather burning.
Here are Winscar, Harden and Snailsden reservoirs…
…also right next to some grouse moors.
And Broomhead Reservoir…
…that gets its water from a large upland area of grouse moor too.
Of course, there are other bits of the catchment that are nowhere near grouse moors, but quite a lot of the upper catchment has grouse shooting neighbours. And you can see from the satellite images that these areas have been intensively burned in recent years, and some say that the threat of removal of permission to burn blanket bog has provided an incentive to get more burning done in recent years.
Certainly parts of this catchment have been burned recently – here are two images published on this blog in February in this very area when I was simply driving through (on my way to Preston to give a talk) one day:
Now Fishlake isn’t the only place to be flooded and it is miles from the Peak District, about 30 miles as the Don flows according to my calculation, and it is right next to the Humberhead Levels and Thorne and Hatfield Moors so it is in an area which used to be a large wetland, but water flows down hill and gathers more and more water as it flows. It’s not a new idea that we should be looking at the land use in upland areas to reduce flooding in lowland areas. It’s not a new idea, it’s just that governments rarely seem to get around to doing anything about it.