Faith in trees

Dongria Kondh, co-founder of Treesponsibility, explains why planting trees and restoring upland blanket bogs may provide a long-term solution to flooding in the Calder Valley.

Dongria Kondh Dongria Kondh

Treesponsibility has been using nature to manage the effects of flooding since 1998. They’re part of The Source, an alliance of local and national groups to enable the planting of 50,000 trees, shrubs and erosion control across the Calder Valley. Co-founder Dongria Kondh explains more.

We think of ourselves as a climate action group, not a tree planting group. In the early years it felt pretty small, doing little sites, but we’ve managed to plant 10,000 trees in the area nearly every year. Slowly, the woods are coming.

Tree planting helps lower the water table. By sucking up water through their roots, and helping the water filter down to the aquifers, they also provide interception with their leaves, which is relevant for summer floods. By knitting the hill together we’re preventing landslips that clog up the waterways.

The problem with our work is that if we’re successful, nothing happens. It’s rather invisible – the waterways don’t clog up, there’s no damage. In the most recent flood there are several places where I’ve looked at the work we’ve done and thought that it could have been a landslide if we hadn’t been involved.

I think people are a lot more aware of the role of upland management. If we can slow it down on the hills before it hits the rivers then we have a chance of lowering the peak. It’s not going to stop flooding altogether, but in a flood, inches count. If we can keep it below the floodgates, that’s millions of pounds of damages saved and it’s probably only the top 10% of the flood that went over the floodgates – so even a few percentage points are worth having.

One of the things we think is particularly important is the restoration of the blanket bogs at the top of the catchment. They’re in a poor condition and if we can encourage sphagnum up there, then all our work adds together. It’s not just about trees. We can think about river and canal stewardship and we want to work closely with everyone.

It’s our 18th birthday this year. We’re having a tree planting weekend, then we’re going to have a great big party in the Trades Club. We’re going to live it up. It’ll be planting shoes at the weekend and dancing shoes afterwards.

Last date edited: 4 March 2016