Historic flooding swept through many open fields in December 2015, casting rail sleepers and debris about. Giant holes and islands of stones remained in the fields, requiring excavators to return them to normal. Although, the willow bent with the water’s force yet it popped back up like nothing had happened.
“Our willows effectively stopped the rail sleepers, and even added a safety benefit, keeping them from reaching the Derwent River. By contrast the sheer power from the water flowing onto the land ripped it up like a carpet,” says Steven.
“We have always had wet land in the Lake District, and often it reverts back to marsh land. After a really wet summer a few years ago, I needed to re-seed it and that is when I thought about doing something different. We planted rows of the crop beside a beck which flows into the River Derwent. Steven marvels over willow’s hardiness and potential for land like his.”
He says additional willow planting could make sense on an adjacent 60 ha (150 ac) section of rented land. He believes this could have prevented the pasture from being ‘wrecked’. Simply stated, a willow plantation has the ability to hold water back within and immediately upstream of the energy crop plantation. It can slow the speed of water spread across the floodplain. The lack of dead wood associated with SRC willow can also reduce the wash-out of woody debris and therefore reduce the risk of downstream blockage of river structures. Because the crop does not need to be harvested annually, if the crop is flooded, it can be left until the next harvest window.