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Climate change is here. I often talk about how our thinking in flood risk management has to change faster than the climate – and embracing natural approaches is a key part of that change. One of the major challenges in making community led NFM projects successful is people knowing what the art of the possible is – this can all seem very daunting at the start of any project. High Water Common Ground has been one of the most successful tools we have in showing just what is possible and inspiring action. It should be essential viewing for anyone associated with flood risk management.

—  John Curtin, Environment Agency

Essential Viewing



Extreme flooding events in recent years have devastated countless communities throughout the UK, and it is only a matter of time before such destructive waters are seen again. Beyond the immediate, obvious loss of livelihood and business, the impacts of these floods have permeated much deeper, affecting communities both physically and psychologically, and affecting the relationships between the people most affected and those charged with alleviating the damage.

But from amidst this chaos, communities have pulled together more strongly than ever, and opportunity has emerged to find new and innovative solutions to the threat of flooding. These are solutions that have the potential to satisfy every stakeholder, and benefit land and water on every level. Such ‘natural’ flood risk management techniques are in no way a universal or absolute solution, but their potential for significant contribution to flood pressure alleviation is widely accepted.

In a documentary-meets-toolkit, High Water Common Ground meets the communities most affected by flooding, examines the needs of the parties involved, and explores some of the most innovative methods of flood risk management using real examples from around the country.

High Water Common Ground

was produced with support from:

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Contributors and Case Studies


Pont Bren - Collaboration of Farmers

When a group of farmers banded together to manage their land more sustainably, they had no idea of the impacts their project would have on flood risk management.


Calder Valley - Dongria Kond

Severely hit by the 2015/16 floods, the Calder Valley is currently bursting with energy to tackle the threat of future floods. Dongria describes local efforts and the strategic use of trees as flood defences.


Pickering - Mike Potter

In 2014, Pickering became one of three DEFRA pilot projects in upstream management and 'slowing-the-flow'. Mike tells us how impactful it's been in just that time.


Eddlestone Water - Prof Chris Spray

An ongoing trial of natural flood management looks promising for collecting the much called-for evidence needed to predict and quantify it's impact.

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Shropshire Slowing The Flow -

Jayne Disley and Geoff Neden

Small-scale 'NFM' schemes can be implemented in very rural locations, but have strong cumulative effects downstream - as utilised between the villages of Diddlebury and Culmington.

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Brompton - Sue Butler

After discussions with major stakeholders, the Brompton Flood Prevention Group are working with a local farmer to install a series of leaky dams into their catchment.

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Shipston - Phil Wragg

Effective flood risk management schemes can serve many purposes, and establishing an ambitious multi-agency partnership may just be the way to achieve them all.

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Stroud - Chris Uttley

After exhaustive flooding, the Stroud District Council and residents realised that their best option of defence was to create some innovative natural flood management.

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Atkinson Farm - Rob Atkinson

As a Countryside Stewardship farmer, Rob has an admirably holistic approach to farming, believing that we all have a part to play in looking out for each other and the environment.

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Belford - Dr Alex Nicholson

From his work as a PhD student on the upland management work at Belford, Alex describes the various ways that the impact of projects can be measured.


Dykehead - Dr Paul Quinn

After the success of his work at Belford, Paul is now addressing the issue of 'scaling-up' natural flood risk management throughout larger areas.

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North Pennines AONB - Emma Taylor

Up in the moorlands of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, peatland restoration is blocking 'grips' and rejuvenating this great natural resource.

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Peak District - Chris Dean

Atmospheric pollution has acidified and grossly degraded the peat moorland of the Peak District. Thanks to innovative techniques in Sphagnum regeneration, Chris and his peers are bringing life back to the peat.

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Hill Farm - Tim Dunn

Tim describes the life of a hill farmer and his flock, commenting on the landscape that is supported by his work, and noting that grip blocking has had a surprisingly beneficial impact on his farming.

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Bransdale Moor - Paul Wilson

As head keeper, Paul describes the way in which moorland can be managed for a variety of benefits. In order to address issues such as this, we must understand and appreciate all stakeholder's needs.

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SuDS For Schools - Susi Earnshaw

Natural Flood Management is not strictly a rural approach, as the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and students of two London schools are proudly demonstrating with their integrated approaches.


Wheldrake Ings - National Nature Reserve

This iconic and ancient floodplain has proven a great success in combining flow-managing flood resilience with a multitude of harmonious environmental benefits.

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Find A Screening

- or organise one!

Find even more tips and advice on NFM in the High Water Film Library

Check out more examples of NFM 

Production Team


First Camera

Ben Sadd



Andy Clark


Composer & Sound Design

Peter Baumann

Contributors to Knowledge

Duncan Huggett

Environment Agency

Jeff Pacey

Environment Agency

Rob Cathcart

Natural England

Alistair Maltby

The Rivers Trust

Dianne Millis

The Woodland Trust

Prof Alastair Driver

Catchment restoration Specialist

Amanda Anderson

Moorland Association

Ben Connor

British Ecological Society

Bob Vaughan

Natural Resources Wales

Becky Wallis

Independent Researcher

Andrew Herbert

Lake District National Parks Authority

Nick Hulme

United Utilities

Alastair Chisholm


Mark Simpson

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Andy Graham

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Jeremy Biggs

Freshwater Habitats Trust

Dr Alex Nicholson


Peter Smith

West Sussex County council

Martin Rogers

National Farmers Union

Dongria Kond


Mike Potter

Pickering Civic Society

Geoff Neden

Diddlebury Flood Action Group

Rob Atkinson

Atkinson Farms

Gareth Dockerty


Heather Shepherd

National Flood Forum

Stewart Prodger


Debi Garft

Scottish Government

Mark Wilkinson

James Hutton Institute

Ian Creighton

Cumbria Rivers Trust

Prof Mike Acreman


Chris Uttley

Stroud District Council

Prof Chris Spray

University of Dundee

Dr Nick Odoni

Durham University

Gareth Davies

Coed Cymru

Dr Tim Pagella

Bangor University

Dr Martin Evans

Manchester University

Jason Reeves


Chris Dean

Moors For The Future

David Mount

Upland Hydrology Group

Brenda Pollack

Rewilding Britain

Graham Chaplin-Brice

Cumbria Farm Owner

William Chaplin-Brice

Cumbria Farmer

Lynne Jones

Keswick Flood Action Group

Sue Butler

Brompton Flood Prevention group

Tim Dunn

Hillfarmer, North York Moors

Paul Wilson

Head Keeper, Bransdale Moor

Mark Owen

The Angling Trust

Craig Talston

Natural England

Kickstarter Thanks

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