Students get a lesson in flood protection

Geographers from Huish Episcopi Academy have been given a behind the scenes tour of one of the major flood protection schemes on the Somerset Levels.

Around 30 Sixth Form students visited the Somerset County Council-led works that recently started on the A372 at Beer Wall. The Council’s contractor, Skanska, gave the visitors a detailed insight into the scheme, the engineering behind it and what it aims to achieve.

The Beer Wall scheme, along with work to raise a road in Muchelney, are being carried out as part of the Flood Action Plan which is being delivered by a range of agencies, coordinated by County Council. The Plan will guide water and land management policies and investment on the Levels and Moors for the next 20 years.

Jim Moncur, Head of Geography at Huish Episcopi Academy, said: “It was fantastic to be able to see some of the theory we learn around the issue of flood management in the classroom, being put into practice. We look forward to working with the organisations involved again in the future.

“This is a very important issue for our community and it is great that our students get an insight into the work being carried out to reduce the impact of future floods.”

John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council and Chairman of the Flood Action Plan’s Leaders Implementation Group, said: “The students and school children in this area would have seen at first hand the impact of the winter flooding. I hope the visit has given some academic insight into the works as well as but also some reassurance that work is being done to address the issues.

“It has taken a lot of work and close cooperation between organisation to get these projects to this stage so quickly. No one can stop flooding, but schemes like this and other actions within the Plan can, together, reduce its likelihood and impact.”

The Beer Wall scheme will see four new culverts installed at Beer Wall to the east of Langacre Rhyne, which runs alongside the Sowy under the A372. Last winter the road was flooded at this spot for several weeks and then closed to accommodate emergency pumping. As well as protecting the road, this scheme will allow the Environment Agency to undertake further work to increase capacity of the Sowy.

This first phase of the scheme will see a trench cut into the A372 where the culverts will be installed in the spring. A temporary bridge will span the trench so that the road remains open for the winter.

Simon White, Business Director, Skanska, said: ““It was great to be able to host the local students on our site to further their learning. Floodwater management is a key part of their studies and hopefully we have helped bring their learning to life by showing them some real life challenges and projects on their own doorstep. They have seen how civil engineers can improve the management of floodwater in a sustainable way.”

The organisations working to deliver the Flood Action Plan are: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair, Somerset County Council, The Environment Agency, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Natural England, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset Internal Drainage Boards, South Somerset District Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council and Mendip District Council.