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Saved by a sausage: A case study in community resilience

Kirkby Wharfe Flood Group

The tiny village of Kirkby Wharfe, just outside Tadcaster on the River Wharfe, has been flooded in every major flood event of the past decade. In many of these, homes have been flooded and residents forced out for lengthy repairs.

The Kirkby Wharfe Community Flood Group has successfully protected homes in the last two major floods, in January 2021 and February 2020, by deploying a mobile flood barrier called a SpeedyFlood, supplied by AquaDam Europe Ltd, that has held back two feet of flood water from Kirkby Wharfe Cottages.

Kirkby Wharfe, like Tadcaster, was severely flooded after the Boxing Day 2015 storms – the event that damaged the bridge at Tadcaster. In the aftermath, Government funding was made available for flood protection for homes that had been flooded. The cottages at Kirkby Wharfe are old stone buildings, with porous walls, so flood doors are not much use. Instead, four of the residents arranged with North Yorkshire County Council to each pool their £5,000 grant for the benefit of the community and in 2019 the Flood Group bought the AquaDam.

The AquaDam SpeedyFlood is a 150m long water-filled sausage. It arrives as a long, rolled-up bag, and after careful positioning, pumps fill it from the flood water. The Dam is formed in 25m sections, making it easier to put in place. Each one should take around an hour to fill. When full, this creates a 92cm wall, the weight of the water inside ensures a very tight seal with the ground and (if correctly set up) with the next section of dam.

At Kirkby Wharfe, the Flood Group has also bought several small (3 inch) pumps, both to fill the SpeedyFlood Dam quickly and to pump out the water that seeps underground during serious floods. Very little gets through the barrier. In January 2021, the Tadcaster Fire Brigade helped by lending a slightly bigger (5 inch) pump as the water was rising too fast.

The AquaDam in use. Image: Kirkby Wharfe Flood Group

Image: Kirkby Wharfe Flood Group

The Kirkby Wharfe Community Flood Group is lucky to be able to draw a group of residents with superb technical skills, in surveying, infrastructure projects and groundwork. The group can also call on some heavy lifting machinery from a neighbour.

Kirkby Wharfe hopes that a permanent defence will come soon, to give residents permanent protection from the horror of a flooded home. The local MP’s office has been dogged in supporting the group, and County and District Councils have also lent their help. Nonetheless, in 2016, a community-led planning application for a permanent barrier was turned down for technical reasons.

Until Kirkby Wharfe can be permanently defended, the water-filled sausage that the team at AquaDam have provided is all that keeps the water away.