Fascine Mattresses: Basketry Gone Wild

Around the 17th century, the Dutch started reinforcing their dykes and harbours with sturdy mats the size of football pitches – hand-woven from thousands of twigs grown on nearby coppice plantations. These “fascine mattresses” were weighted with rocks and sunk into canals, estuaries, and rivers.

A Message in the Floods

Our land has experienced centuries of woodland clearance, decades of overgrazing and burning upland heaths and bogs, and relatively recent ‘reclamation’ (for intensive farming) of heathy hillsides, scrubby banks, old pastures and floodplain meadows. On heavy clay soils, and where wetlands used to be, land drainage, river canalisation and dredging have enabled farmers to cultivate land where cultivation was considered impossible not that long ago.

If We Want to Cut Flooding We Should Stop Burning the Moorland

Since 2014, when I first wrote about how government policies exacerbate flooding, there has been a growing realisation, in and out of government, that impeding the flow of water off the land, desynchronising flood peaks in the tributaries and slowing a river’s pace can reduce flooding downstream – saving lives, homes and infrastructure.