The project, which has been in planning for 20 years, will see a stretch of river moved from its current course alongside a main road into the Lake District and re-meandered, creating a series of bends and smaller channels that will reduce the risk of flooding.
Homes and businesses in the valley have been devastated by floods in recent years, including during Storm Desmond in 2015 when houses and hotels were submerged, bridges collapsed and key infrastructure, including the A592, undermined.
Unfortunately, storm damage, landslides and flooding are set to become common occurrences and more widespread in the North of England by 2060.
Led by the Riverlands programme, a partnership between the National Trust and the Environment Agency, the scheme will reverse historic changes to Godrill Beck which have artificially straightened the river channel, meaning it is quickly overwhelmed by water.
Instead, project organisers aim to reconnect the beck with a floodplain, slowing the flow of water and allowing the wider landscape to absorb the effects of the Cumbrian weather.
In addition, the works will also be creating new and complex habitats to allow nature and wildlife to thrive.
Historic changes to the course of Goldrill Beck, which runs adjacent to the A592, have created a waterway that responds rapidly to rainfall. Man-made embankments are in poor condition and concentrate the force of the water onto the retaining wall of the A592, regularly flooding the key access route and increasing the risk of damage to the road.
After Storm Desmond, the project at Goldrill Beck was identified as being key to protecting the A592 from future flood damage. Based on the benefits to people and nature which the project will deliver, it was awarded funding from the Water Environment Grant administered by Natural England.
National Trust Riverlands Project Manager Rebecca Powell said: “Over many hundreds of years the rivers in the Ullswater Valley have been straightened, initially for land reclamation and then more recently to protect that land from the impact of these modified river systems.
“These interventions have disconnected rivers from the surrounding landscape and resulted in channels which are highly efficient in transporting large volumes of water, gravel and natural materials downstream quickly. This then undermines defences and causes catastrophic damage to local infrastructure, farmland and local communities.
“Recent flood events and the impact these have on land, habitats and people who live, work and visit the area have emphasised the need to work with nature, rather than against it, and explore sustainable solutions for managing the valley’s waterways.”
The project is being delivered jointly by the National Trust and Environment Agency with the support of a number of partners including the National Trust’s tenant farmers, Natural England and Cumbria County Council. It is part funded by is part by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.
Anyone interested in finding out more, or wanting to follow the progress of the project should visit: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/aira-force-and-ullswater/projects/restoring-ullswaters-rivers