South East Rivers Trust (& the Wandle Trust)

Storms Ciara & Dennis: Flooding at Five Oak Green & Capel

Storm Ciara and Dennis have hit national headlines recently and local communities here in the Southeast haven’t been spared their impact.

We have been working with partners in the Medway Flood Partnership to try to mitigate the impact of flooding here, in particular through our Natural Flood Management programme. This is part of a wider ‘Multi-Layer Safety Approach’ which aims to tackle the problem at every stage through: Prevention, Protection, Response and Recovery. The approach is inspired by what we’ve learnt from the Dutch flood experts leading the European FRAMES project which we’re part of.

Here’s a quick round-up of what we’ve been doing to help locally:

Five Oak Green and Capel – NFM on the Alder Stream

Households at Five Oak Green and Capel are particularly at risk from flooding from the Alder Stream and run-off from surrounding fields. Waters can rise and fall incredibly rapidly, the peaks of flow entering properties causing widespread damage and the terrible distress that entails. Rainfall of a remarkable 28 mm in one hour was measured at Paddock Wood, and could have been even more locally.  

We have been working with local landowners in the Alder Stream catchment to slow the flow and store water in the headwaters of the catchment in order to delay these flood peaks and to reduce their height.  Work commenced in January 2020 at land belonging to the Hadlow Estate to install Leaky Woody Structures in the watercourses to create temporary barriers to water flow, and to store it for more gradual release.

Installing Leaky Wood Structures at Pembury Wood
Installing Leaky Wood Structures at Pembury Wood

It’s too early to claim that the number of structures we’ve put in have had a significant impact yet, but we checked on them during the storms and they’re functioning as they’re designed to:

Large Woody Structures in action!

Although, as you can see from the video, water still continues to flow, it does so relatively calmly and steadily.

Compare this with a nearby tributary where the water clearly descended in a raging torrent a metre high, powerful enough to strip away bankside vegetation.

Helping the local community at Capel

At about 5:30 pm during Storm Ciara on the 9th of February there was a sudden torrential and perhaps unprecedented rainfall event. Local farmers told us they witnessed sheets of water pouring down the hillsides, the like of which they’d never witnessed before. Properties in Five Oak Green were flooded, as well as a row of properties including the Dovecote Inn at Alders Road, Capel. While these cottages missed flooding from the Alder Stream, they were hit by water flowing off the hillsides and into the ditch network behind the village. Residents were effectively hit from three sides, from the top of the village, from the main road, and through their back gardens:

The sudden rise in water was remarkable, and the Dovecote Inn have posted some dramatic footage of the flood surging through their driveway on their Facebook page

We contacted members of the local community and the Parish Flood Warden to offer to help. Following threats of a repeat event from Storm Dennis the next weekend, we diverted some of our Natural Flood Management Team to help fill sandbags in the village.

We also walked the site with local residents to trace the source of the problem and to devise a solution to prevent this from happening again. Thanks to the links we have with local landowners, we’re hopeful that through a combination of Natural Flood Management and an improved drainage network we may be able to protect these properties, and at the same time help prevent flooding further downstream in Five Oak Green.

We’re also working with the local MP Greg Clarke, the Parish Flood Warden and our partners in the Medway Flood Partnership to see what we can do to tackle flooding at every stage in the catchment. We’ll post an update on our progress here soon.

Have any Question or Comment?

2 comments on “Storms Ciara & Dennis: Flooding at Five Oak Green & Capel

Dave Thompson

Any specific omments on the properties in Nortons Way which suffered tens of thousands of pounds of damage and are still only half way there on road to full restoration ?

Nigel Love

We Live in Tolhurst Road off Sychem Lane. This area would be regarded as the higher end of Five Oak Green. We had a torrent flowing down our garden and drive with water an inch below the damp proof course. This was not a gradual build up of flow, it was a sudden torrent and we believe more man-made rather than natural flow. It was possible to see the water running across the fields behind us. We were lucky. The natural methods of flow attenuation are good but the fact is that the Alder stream culvert is far to small and prone to blockage. There needs to be a bigger civil engineering solution to resolve this.

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