Horses called in to help protect homes from flooding

Working horses are helping to create natural leaky dams as part of work to protect a Yorkshire area from flooding.

Harden Moor is one of the natural flood management sites along the River Aire.

Funding for the £500,000 pilot programme, part of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, has come from Leeds City Council and is being run in partnership with the Environment Agency (EA).

Ghalm, an eight-year-old north Swedish horse, has been recruited to help the team move large trees.

The team are managing the land to reduce water run-off, through planting more trees including native oaks, creating wetland and installing leaky barriers to slow the flow of water into Harden Beck, which is a major tributary to the River Aire.

This will mean the landscape will be able to hold more water in times of heavy rainfall, so reducing the risk of flooding in villages and towns downstream, including Bingley, Saltaire, Shipley, Esholt and Apperley Bridge.

Ghalm is one of a team of horses who have worked at other natural flood management sites including Hardcastle Crags in Calderdale.

“We are delighted that this tradition is now being extended to the work at Harden Moor and we are very grateful for the opportunity to work with Ghalm as it will be a huge help to us when delivering our flood alleviation measures,” said EA project executive Chris Milburn.

“This work at Harden Moor will contribute to local flood risk reduction and wider environmental benefits, slowing the flow of water locally and to downstream communities.”

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Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transport at Bradford Council, said the improvements are sensitive to the landscape and existing habitats.

“It includes blocking drainage features and constructing leaky dams to reduce run-off and surface erosion, as well as creating woodland areas and planting sphagnum to increase water absorption,” said Cllr Ross-Shaw.

“This land management maximises technique uses natural regeneration and re-wetting of heathland areas so that the landscape can hold more water in times of flood.

“The use of horse logging is a really environmentally sensitive way to move felled and fallen timber while reducing damage to flora and watercourses without pollution, so it’s great that we can use Ghalm in this way on our moorland to benefit areas downstream from Harden which include large areas of the Bradford district before the river reaches Leeds.”

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