Friday, October 19, 2018

Farmer manages 500 miles of watercourses alongside arable crops

September 12, 2017 by  
Filed under News & Business


A Nottinghamshire farmer manages almost 500 miles of watercourses while looking after 400ha of arable crops – protecting people, property and land from flooding as well as producing food.

Will Staunton, 45, is chairman of the Trent Valley Internal Drainage Board (IDB), which manages watercourses across an area of low-lying land from the west of Gainsborough, straddling the River Trent and its tributaries, down to the south of Nottingham, a total of 44,093ha.

Following in his great-grandfather’s footsteps, Mr Staunton’s role sees him responsible for maintaining pumping stations and drainage channels to ensure the safety of local residents, farm-land and businesses, while greatly reducing the risk of flooding.

The farmer and landowner oversees an executive board responsible for the 14-strong team maintaining 486 miles of watercourses, as well as operating and manages 18 pumping stations across the low-lying fen and valley areas.

Arable and grass

Mr Staunton combines his work with the IDB with his day job, as the managing partner of a 400ha arable and grassland family farm in Nottinghamshire. The farm on the edge of the Vale of Belvoir grows wheat, spring barley and oilseed rape, with 100ha of grassland.

The land requires good drainage, says Mr Staunton – one of the reasons for joining the IDB. “I also wanted to give something back to the community, learn something, and help manage water levels for the benefit of everyone living and working in the area.”

Working for the IDB has given Mr Staunton a better understanding of the wider importance of water level management, and he is enjoying the challenge of helping to steer the board through these current austere times.

“Although not many people know this, IDBs have been active in rural communities for many centuries, and they continue to play an important role in communities to manage water levels to reduce the risk from flooding.”

Planning applications

IDBs also advise on planning applications and facilitate the drainage of building developments to help reduce future flood risk, through partnering with farmers, landowners, other drainage boards, regional flood and coastal committees, local authorities and national agencies.

“To be honest, ever since I started working for the IDB, I’ve never looked back. I’ve even followed in the footsteps of my great grandfather, who was a one-time vice-chair of the Newark Drainage Board, which was later absorbed into what is now the Trent Valley IDB.”

Mr Staunton says one of his proudest achievements has been the renewal of a large £1.5 million pumping station at Beckenham near Gainsborough, as well as the merging of three drainage boards into one.

“Striving to find more efficient ways of working has been hard, but very rewarding to see more work being carried out with a similar income. We have done this by sharing the back-office functions with other IDBs and improving the efficiency of our dedicated outside workforce.”

Important wetland

The Beckenham pumping station serves a catchment of 1000ha including domestic properties, industry, a renowned local wetland site important for wading birds, and a substantial area of valuable agricultural land.

Mr Staunton says: “These projects have been absolutely fascinating, and I would never get to do them in my day job. We are all custodians of the land we work on and striving to reduce flood risk for rural properties and businesses is an extremely worthwhile aim.

“I would love to see more young landowners, farmers and others from the local community participate in the work of drainage boards. It is really important to have a pool of talent drawn from a range of ages including both men and women, so that our work can be carried on.”

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