Two years on from a powerful flood at Lyme, near Stockport, the National Trust have announced several wide-ranging flood resilience projects to reduce the risk of future flood damage to the iconic Cheshire estate.
The National Trust team are working with nature to protect Lyme’s Grade I listed house and Grade II* listed garden, as well as nearby homes and businesses, from the kinds of floods that caused over £250,000 worth of damage and left much of the property underwater two years ago.
On 31 July 2019, heavy rain sent torrents of water down from the moorland surrounding Lyme, which raced along outdated water channels and into the estate’s formal garden. The iconic lake in front of Lyme House burst its banks and an estimated 40 tonnes of debris was deposited into the estate’s formal gardens.
Fast-acting National Trust staff were able to protect the mansion and its collection from any damage, but the gardens, café and wider estate were all left in need of repair.
Protecting this special place from climate change
Since the 2019 flood, the gardens at Lyme have been restored to their vibrant best, with summer planting highlights like bold dahlias and colourful pelargoniums delighting visitors this month.
But as the effects of climate change become clearer it’s likely that flooding events will become more common. That’s why, with support from Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and local partners including Manchester City of Trees and Moors for the Future, the National Trust is future-proofing the gardens, estate and wider landscape surrounding Lyme to ensure it is more resilient to extremes of weather, whilst also protecting local communities.
General Manager at Lyme, Deborah Maxwell, said, “After the destructive 2019 floods, our team of rangers, gardeners and volunteers have done a fantastic job of repairing the damage that was caused. The summer beds in our garden are looking particularly beautiful this year thanks to all of their hard work. But it’s clear that we need to do more to protect this unique place from flooding in the long term.
We know how painful it can be, both for our visitors and the community around us, when flooding hits. But by working in partnership we are putting real plans in place to protect Lyme and our neighbours, keeping this special place open for everyone to enjoy.”
Improving Lyme’s historic lakes
One of the first steps for this new project will be to make improvements to the lakes and reservoirs at Lyme so that they can hold more water. This includes the iconic lake in front of Lyme House, made famous in the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice series, starring Colin Firth as Mr Darcy.
Deborah Maxwell added, “If Mr Darcy were to jump into one of the lakes and reservoirs at Lyme today he would be in for quite a shock. Over the years, flooding has caused silt to build up in some of our lakes so they are much shallower than they used to be. One aim of our project is to remove this silt and make other improvements to the structure of the lakes at Lyme, so that they can hold more water during periods of heavy rain.”
Restoring the moorland and planting trees
Beyond the formal gardens, the National Trust cares for 1,400 acres of moorland in the upper catchment of the River Mersey. When in a healthy state, this moorland habitat has the potential to store and slow significant amounts of water, helping increase the resilience of the landscape and mitigate the risk of floods downstream.
Chris Dunkerley, Lead Ranger at Lyme, commented, “Over the coming years our team will be working with Moors for the Future to restore 174 hectares of moorland to make it a more effective tool for preventing floods.
Alongside Manchester City of Trees we’ll also be planting around 6,000 trees, including Willow, Rowan and Scots Pine, which will soak up water through their roots while catching rainwater on their leaves and branches, slowing it down before it can reach the ground.”
This is all in addition to other natural flood management techniques, like building ‘leaky dams’ (where felled wood is laid across streams to slow the flow of water during periods of heavy rain) that the project team at Lyme hope will mitigate the risk of future floods on the National Trust estate and its neighbours.
Chris Dunkerley added, “We know that if climate change continues at its current rate, places like Lyme are at serious risk of damage from flood events. While we are tackling climate change in lots of ways here at the National Trust, including our plan to become carbon net zero by 2030, we also need to prepare for floods now.”
Working in partnership
The National Trust has joined forces with Moors for the Future Partnership to regenerate Lyme’s moorland, building on the charity’s existing partnership with Moors for the Future at other National Trust sites including Holcombe Moor in Greater Manchester and Marsden Moor in West Yorkshire.
Flood resilience work at Lyme is partly funded through Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, alongside support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, United Utilities, Manchester City of Trees, and Moors for the Future. The work is part of the Trust’s wider programme of work, Riverlands, which aims to ensure that rivers and catchments are clean, healthy and rich in wildlife. The work is also being made possible thanks to the support of the National Trust’s members and visitors.
Work to protect Lyme comes after the National Trust published its game changing climate change hazard map to highlight the threat that climate change poses to some of the UK’s most iconic cultural sites. Created ahead of COP26 in November, the hazard map looks at the climate change “worst case scenario” and plots National Trust places alongside existing climate data to map out how, at a local level, potential climate hazards could have a real impact on much-loved cultural sites.