Stroud Rural Sustainable Drainage Project

Case Study Information
Working with communities, landowners and partners to implement natural flood management on a catchment wide scale. In the past, the valleys near Stroud in Gloucestershire, through which the River Frome and its tributaries run, have been prone to flooding. In 2007 there was a major flood event which damaged many properties in the Slad Valley. Following a report published by the Environment Agency in 2012 on the potential for Natural Flood Management in the Frome catchment, a formal partnership was set up between Gloucestershire County Council, the Environment Agency, the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and Stroud District Council to implement a three year project. A Project Officer was recruited and work began in 2014.
Stroud District, Gloucestershire (within approximately 200km2 of the upper catchment)
Landscape context: 

The Stroud River Frome arises on the Cotswold Escarpment in Gloucestershire. The catchment is approximately 250km2 in size and flows to the Severn estuary. Its geology is primarily limestone and the river combines a mixture of spring and surface drained sources. The upper reaches of the catchment are within the Cotswold Area of Natural Beauty (AONB), and significant areas of the upper catchment are within the Cotswold Commons and Beechwoods National Nature Reserves (NNR)  and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). 

Partners, organisations and stakeholders involved: 
  • Severn and Wye Regional Flood and Coastal Committee
  • Environment Agency
  • Gloucestershire County Council
  • National Trust
  • Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
  • University of Gloucestershire (Countryside and Community Research Institute)
  • Butterfly Conservation
  • Woodland Trust
  • Severn Rivers Trust
Aims of the project/initiative: 

Involving the implementation of a wide range of measures designed to slow peak flows, attenuate high flows to reduce flood risk whilst at the same time taking steps to improve water quality and restore biodiversity.

The Project's vision is: to create a river catchment where water management is fully integrated into land management practices. Where public bodies, private companies and local communities work together to manage water within the landscape, creating valuable habitat for wildlife and people, and limiting flood risk downstream.

Progress so far: 

Since 2014 the Project has worked with 16 landowners (farmers, woodland owners and land owned by local partners such as Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and the National Trust) and constructed or implemented over 300 different types of intervention to slow peak flows and reduce floods in the valleys. Interventions include:

  • 130+ large woody debris leaky dams installed in four tributaries to hold back and divert flood water. 30 minor coarse woody debris structures.
  • 9 culverts and soakaways created
  • 12 off-line field bunds (no watercourse)
  • 6 large ‘scarp erosion/drainage channels’ filled with timber

Two films have been produced in partnership with the University of Gloucestershire to publicise the work. They are a significant communication tool for describing what Natural Flood Management is about and the multiple ecosystem services that can be delivered by the project.

In 2017 the Project was a runner up in the UK River Prize competition, run by the River Restoration Centre to recognise innovation and best practice in river restoration and catchment management.


Challenges and lessons learned: 

Natural Flood Management relies on putting measures in place across a large area of catchment, and therefore the success of the Project has been very dependent on building good relationships with local landowners, including farmers and NGOs. These good relationships have been achieved through:

  • Involving the farmer or woodland owner in designing and locating any measures to ensure they are compatible with their ongoing business priorities.
  • sometimes employing the landowner or their contractor directly to undertake construction which results in increased ownership, capacity and skills.
  • working with a large number of local agricultural contractors to improve local capacity for this type of work.
  • Taking a pragmatic, community-led approach has meant reaching a large number of landowners quickly.
Further information
Contact name 

Chris Uttley

Role in project: 
Stroud Rural Sustainable Drainage Officer
Location map: