Close this search box.

How Natural Flood Management in Southwell improved flood-risk resilience

During its three-year lifespan Southwell’s FRAMES project improved flood-risk resilience in the present day and for the future. Here are some of the project’s successes, impacts, and lessons learned.

Multi-layered approach

FRAMES involved pilot projects collaborating across five countries and aimed to integrate the Multi-Layered Safety Approach (MLSA) into future flood risk policy.

MLSA combines flood-prevention engineering methods with spatial planning and measures to boost community resilience and recovery. Combined, these four “layers” (see diagram, right) improve overall flood-risk resilience.

All 16 FRAMES pilots have demonstrated the success of this modern, integrated approach.

The Southwell FRAMES Pilot

Trent Rivers Trust (TRT) led the Southwell Pilot project, which sought to improve flood resilience in Southwell through natural flood management (NFM) intervention and community engagement.

The Southwell catchment is 6km2 and features clay soils with steep topography. The town itself has a history of floods including two recent events, a 2007 winter flood, and the 2013 summer flood at which 107.6mm of rain fell in 75 minutes; around 250 properties were flooded and the main road out of Southwell collapsed.

TRT worked with Southwell Flood Forum, the National Flood Forum and Nottinghamshire County Council to deliver this FRAMES project, “Improving Flood Resilience in Southwell.”

Dr. Josh Wells, project manager, says three key lessons were learned during Southwell FRAMES:

  • Communication is vital: with landowners and stakeholders,
  • Collaborate and involve all stakeholders, which means cutting across both geographical and political boundaries,
  • Monitoring: we must monitor and document the impact of the project and pass this knowledge on and leave a lasting legacy.

IMPACT: NFM interventions can help to store water and reduce flood risk

A corner of the field bund

Southwell FRAMES demonstrated that natural flood management (NFM) interventions within the upper catchment of the river can help to store water and reduce flood risk.

Working closely with landowners, Trent Rivers Trust installed 43 NFM measures across 12 landholdings. These now provide around 4000m3 of water storage within the upper catchment.

TRT installed a number of different NFM interventions to achieve this volume of water storage:

Corner of the field bunds within agricultural land, to reduce overland flow during high intensity rainfall events. These were monitored using time lapse cameras with data showing that they fill during intense rainfall and drain once high flows have passed.

A leaky barrier in Southwell

Leaky barriers within farm ditches and watercourses. They reduce the speed of any flood waves into the town and provide further storage and floodplain re-connection.

Raised cross drains along farm tracks where overland flow was documented. Previously, water was flowing onto the main road during high rainfall events; the cross drains now divert this water into constructed bunds and have improved safety and resilience locally.

IMPACT: Tree planting creates new woodland

The project created a new 0.1ha area of cross slope woodland, with 190 trees planted within a field in the upper catchment by TRT and Nottingham Trent University postgraduate students.

The woodland will increase soil infiltration rates and evapotranspiration whilst increasing the local biodiversity value of the area.

IMPACT: Building social capital and community resilience

The flood preparedness and awareness of the Southwell community has increased. Residents are more resilient and have taken on some responsibilities to manage flood risks. This was accomplished through physical and digital communication, community events and working closely with business owners and the Southwell Flood Forum.

IMPACT: Wetland scrapes add water storage capacity and create new wetland habitats

We constructed wetland scrapes along the River Greet, connecting them to the watercourse to increase floodplain storage capacity and to create additional wetland habitats.

A wetland scrape (photo CMB Contracting)

This work included the removal of a dredging bank to increase floodplain inundation frequency upstream of the town. The scrapes create an extra 1000m3 of water storage which become active during high flows.

Ponds were also constructed within the catchment to hold water whilst providing additional habitat.

Again, time lapse imagery demonstrated that they fill during high flow events and then drain once peak flow has passed and so a positive benefit of the storage ponds has been recorded.

IMPACT: students get SuDS appeal with runoff cutoff

Several sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) measures were piloted in Southwell through the project.

Rain garden planters were installed on the Nottingham Trent University campus and planted by student volunteers.

The planters temporarily attenuate runoff from buildings which would otherwise enter the drainage system. They look great too, so improve the visual appeal of the student accommodation.


Trent Rivers Trust worked with stakeholders throughout this project, building their capacity to address flood risk and their knowledge about the Multi-Layered Safety approach.

Our communication and dissemination activities sought to:

  • Increase stakeholders’, policymakers’ and decision makers’ knowledge and understanding of the use of NFM within flood risk management projects,
  • Increase their knowledge and understanding of the Multi-Layered Safety approach,
  • Facilitate knowledge-exchange between flood risk and resilience practitioners,
  • Collect and share data and evidence to inform future flood risk management policy.


A total of 178 organisations were informed about the successes and lessons learnt during the project. We have given presentations, talks and lectures to:

  • The Trent Regional Flood and Coast Committee.
  • The Nottinghamshire Strategic Flood Risk Management Board.
  • The Nottinghamshire Biodiversity Action Group (a presentation and demonstration site visit, which increased the knowledge of local practitioners on the use of NFM and its ability to enhance the environment).
  • The Nottingham Open Spaces summit and during the East Midlands Council’s Planners conference – these presentations enhanced the knowledge of local practitioners of the spatial application of NFM.
  • Our Senior Catchment Manager, Kim Jennings, gave a lecture to the Fluvial Geomorphology and River Management students at Nottingham Trent University to further build the NFM knowledge capacity of early career river managers.
  • The River Restoration Conference and the Westminster Insight Conference, to promote the project at a national scale, with both talks well received and generating plenty of discussion.
    We hosted many site visits during the project, including by scholars from Beijing’s Institute of Water Research which promoted the project at an international level.


Towards the end of the Southwell FRAMES project TRT convened the Flood Risk Management for the Next Decade conference, in Newark in February 2020. This showcased Southwell’s MLS approach to a wide range of national practitioners. The event also highlighted successful examples of collaboration, effective communication, use of public-domain data, partnership-building, community engagement and empowerment, and the importance of multiple, integrated measures for flood risk management.

This fully-booked event developed practitioner understanding of NFM whilst allowing for discussion of future flood risk management policy.

It was covered in the media by national UK magazine, Environment Journal and the BBC, which broadcast interviews with TRT’s Kim Jennings and Josh Wells every hour on its afternoon and evening news bulletins.

A series of short video interviews with event participants also contributed to our dissemination and communication activities. The interviews, posted to TRT’s website and YouTube channel, also demonstrate how the MLS approach integrates engineered measures for flood risk management with spatial planning, emergency response and resilient recovery.

Through this substantive media coverage and video interviews, the evidence of Southwell FRAMES’ impact reached thousands more members of the public at a time of great interest in policy and practice relating to flood risk and resilience.


TRT continues to advocate for an integrated approach to flood risk management and resilience. We are now delivering other NFM projects across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. TRT is recognised for the excellence our team bring to all stages of the process including feasibility studies, landowner liaison, design, construction and monitoring.

  • Environment Journal magazine: Natural flood management is essential to protect communities.
  • The FRAMES wiki.
  • Coverage in the Newark Advertiser and ITV Central News (the BBC’s 4 minute segment from Feb 2020 is no longer available).
  • Josh Wells’ presentation at the Flood Risk Management for the Next Decade: A Multi-Layered Safety Approach conference.
  • Short interviews with all speakers (including Josh Wells and TRT’s Kim Jennings) at the above conference.
  • Thanks for your interest in our Southwell FRAMES project. Please do contact TRT if you would like to know more about TRT’s NFM projects.

Latest News

How storing water and creating boggy spaces can support our wildlife, rivers and reduce flood risk – one garden at a time.

We all know that our rivers are in trouble – but rather than turn our backs on them, Trent Rivers Trust is