News & Events

February / March 2018 - Defra recognises Haltwhistle Burn innovation #NFM #CitizenScience

Autumn/Winter 2017 - Haltwhistle Burn case study features in national evidence directory

The Haltwhistle Burn (Slaty Sike) natural flood management scheme is 1 of the Environment's 65 case studies within the Working with Natural Processes Evidence Directory (see case study 44): The evidence directory was launched at a CIWEM conference in London (October 2017) and Leeds (December 2017).

The citizen science aspect was also presented at the Leeds CIWEM event

"Working with Natural Processes: The Evidence Behind Natural Flood Management"

‌12th April 2017: New publication - Communities can fill the gaps on flooding

The community-based (citizen science) monitoring scheme and related outputs have been published in the Journal of Hydrology:

Reference: Demonstrating the value of community-based (‘citizen science’) observations for catchment modelling and characterisation by Eleanor Starkey, Geoff Parkin, Stephen Birkinshaw, Andy Large, Paul Quinn, Ceri Gibson. Journal of Hydrology

December 2016 - ITV Tyne Tees flood report

On the 5th December 2015, 'Storm Desmond' hit many parts of the UK, including northern England (and the Haltwhistle Burn catchment). The Haltwhistle Burn citizen scientists collected a large number of observations across the catchment. Scroll through the following album to view some of these:


5th December 2015 - Storm #Desmond


Storm Desmond has since been reviewed by a number of organisations, including:

One year later, ITV Tyne Tees and ITV Borders decided to broadcast a special flood report to mark the anniversary:



This included coverage of the Slaty Sike runoff management works:

April 2016 - European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2016, Vienna (Austria)

The Haltwhsitle Burn community-based / citizen science project has been presented at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) conference in Vienna, Austria. This event took place on the 17th to 22nd April 2016. It is the largest geoscience conference in Euopre, attracting almost 14,000 scientists.

Two abstracts were submitted and accepted:

1) Demonstrating the viability and value of community-based monitoring schemes in catchment science

View online abstract here:

2) Insightful monitoring of natural flood risk management features using a low-cost and participatory approach

View online abstract here: 

To find out more about the EGU 2016 conference, visit


17th March 2016 - ITV News coverage 'Ponds and dams trialled to try reduce flood risk'

The Slaty Sike natural flood risk management work is featured by ITV. Click on the link below to view the article. There is also a video with some great footage of the features in action back in January 2016:

Ponds and dams trialled to try and reduce flood risk



17th March 2016: Runner-up - The Guardian University Awards 2016

The Slaty Sike natural flood management & community involvement work is a runner-up for The Guardian University Awards 2016. A summary can be found on The Guardian page here:

Social and community impact category: award winner and runners up


1st March 2016 - Haltwhistle Burn project shortlisted for The Guardian University Awards 2016

 Dr Paul Quinn and Eleanor Starkey's natural flood risk management and community involvement work in the Haltwhistle Burn catchment has been shortlisted for The Guardian University Awards 2016, under the 'Social and Community Impact' category. This follows on from the media coverage which the 'kerplunk' inspired system received back in 2015 (e.g. Chronicle Live and BBC News).

The work forms part of the wider project invoving a team of Newcastle University researchers (PhD student Eleanor Starkey and her supervisors Geoff Parkin, Paul Quinn and Andy Large) who have worked in partnership with Tyne Rivers Trust
"Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project, especially members of the community. We wouldn't be in this position without all your hard work and involvement!"Eleanor Starkey, PhD Researcher.

It contributes to one of three categories which Newcastle University has been shortlisted for. Category winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in London on 16 March 2016.



12th December 2015: #StormDesmond 4th/5th December

Even though Cumbria experienced the worst impacts and record-breaking rainfall totals following Storm Desmond, Haltwhistle (and the wider Tyne basin) was also affected in Northumberland.


24 rainfall totals observed:

Gauge location

Rainfall 4th Dec 09:00 to 5th Dec 09:00 (24 hr total in mm)

Rainfall 5th Dec 09:00 to 6th Dec 09:00 (24 hr total in mm)

Central Haltwhistle (community-based)



Broomshaw (traditional)



Prolonged and heavy rain fell over northern England on already saturated catchments. This left both the South Tyne and Haltwhistle Burn to reach record levels. Social media was widely used by the public to share their photos and videos. Members of the Haltwhistle Community also headed out along the burn to collected evidence and impacts before and after the main event. Scroll through the photo album below to view their observations collected, including Slaty Sike natural flood management features which trapped sediment…

Highest I've ever seen river levels” (member of the Haltwhistle community 05/12/2015 14:58hrs) 

5th December 2015 - Storm #Desmond

  Do you have any observations to share for the Haltwhistle Burn catchment? If so please send them in using this form:

17th November 2015 – A week of high flows in the Haltwhistle Burn catchment

Despite having a relatively quiet and dry summer, the Haltwhistle Burn catchment has been saturated for most of November. Following heavy and prolonged rainfall (due to a number of weather fronts passing over northern England), the catchment has experienced particularly high flows over the past week. Several automatic email alarms were received for the Haltwhistle Burn at Broomshaw due to high river levels.

2015-11-15 1127hrs Haltwhistle Burn Broomshaw [ES]


How much rainfall was there (in mm)?*

 Date (Nov 2015)

 09:00 – 09:00 next day 


 (traditional equipment) 

 Central Haltwhistle

 (community-based approach) 

 Haltwhistle Burn outlet 

 (community-based approach) 

Townfoot, Haltwhistle

6th 4.8 6 5 3.5
7th 8.2 10 9 10
8th 18.8 22 17 18
9th 5.6 7 7.5 8
10th 19 21 17.5 18
11th 12.8 15 16 14
12th 15.2 3 18 18
13th 2 3 3 2.5
14th 44.4

50   "Mainly overnight. The most I have ever recorded!"  

48.5 46
15th 2.6 5 5 4

*Note that the 24 hour time period starts at 9am on the date listed and ends the following day at 9am (GMT). This provides a 24 hour rainfall total for each data source.

This is the first time that the ‘slow the flow’ natural flood management features have been tested properly in the Slaty Sike sub-catchment. Members of the community and Newcastle University captured their response through photographs and videos. Scroll through the following photo album to see…

Slaty Sike 9th+ Nov 2015


This included Newcastle University testing a ‘KiteCam’ – an old camera attached to a cheap kite using elastic bands! The meant that the ponds performance could be captured from above:


The ponds have certainly slowed the flow by holding back the flood peaks. There is also initial evidence to suggest that the logs have trapped sediment (silt, sand, pebbles and small stones) immediately upstream of the feature and have trapped floating debris:

The logs will need to be inspected as soon as the river levels have returned to normal to see whether sediment has been deposited or scoured elsewere. If anyone from the community would like to come and have a look then please get in touch




9th November 2015 - BBC Weather Watchers goes live

Following a successful trial run, the BBC launched their new 'Weather Watchers' club last week. This facility allows members of the public to contribute to the "great British weather conversation" by submitting weather reports. These reports can be as simple as selecting a weather symbol which best describes the weather experienced (the same weather symbols used by the BBC weather team), adding a photograph or actually submitting real quantitative measurements for rain, wind speed, pressure and humidity.


Reports then contribute to the interactive national weather map so you can see the weather experienced by others across the UK.

The BBC describe these weather reports as "nowcasts" which they hope will "help to illustrate the story a little better" (Weather for the Week Ahead (2015) BBC ONE. 5th November, 22:00). Some of these reports have also been shown (and supported) the BBC weather forecasts.

It is great to see the BBC involving the public and making use of crowd-sourced data. This information will also be useful to catchment hydrologists (storm chasers) as reports submitted provide real-time information. It is also a reliable and easy-to-use site for the public.

If you would like to become a weather watcher and use this system to submit your citizen science weather observation then register at 

26th October 2015: Haltwhistle Burn citizen science – now a national case study

The citizen science monitoring approach implemented within the Haltwhistle Burn catchment is now acting as a national monitoring case study.

Defra’s Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) encourages an integrated and community-led approach to the management of local rivers. Organised by The Rivers Trust, two CaBA citizen science workshops took place during October 2015. A citizen science resource pack was therefore created to support these sessions, with the Haltwhistle Burn citizen science programme acting as a key case study for volunteer-led hydrometric, flood and water quality monitoring. Take a look at:

“Citizen Science is a fundamental data gathering and engagement tool for Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) partnerships to help develop understanding of the issues in catchments and also to engage their local communities in identifying and delivering solutions” (CaBA, 2015).  

Find out more about CaBA here:

28th - 31st August 2015 - Haltwhistle Burn project in the media!

Our new natural flood management (NFM) feature located along the Slaty Sike (and is inspired by the children’s game 'Kerplunk') is in the media this week...

Newcastle University Press Office: 

Chronicle Live: 


BBC Science & Environment: 


BBC News documentary 'Weather World': catch up on BBC iplayer 


BBC Look North & BBC Breakfast: the BBC also showed a clip of the feature a few times on Look North and the BBC Breakfast channel. Both Newcastle University and Tyne Rivers Trust were interviewed. 

It is expected that this 60m long feature will help to trap stones and debris during and after heavy rainfall events - material which would normally collect downstream under bridges and culverts, causing bloakcages, water quality issues and further flood risk in the town of Haltwhistle. The game Kerplunk also helps people to understand how the naturally engineered feature works in order to improve water quality and reduce the impacts from runoff.

Thank you to all members of the River Watch Group and wider community for sharing their rainfall, river level, water quality and flood observations. These have helped to highlight hotspot issue areas and work out where this new feature should be located. 


July 2015: Working with Natural Processes (Natural Flood Management) in the Haltwhistle Burn Catchment

Throughout Tyne Rivers Trust’s Catchment Restoration Funds (CRF) project, working with natural processes (WwNP) and slowing the flow to help improve the quality of the water environment has always been high on agenda. WwNP, for example natural flood management (NFM), involves constructing intervention features and introducing land management measures which work with natural processes (rather than against) in order to reduce flood risk, sediment, water quality and subsequently, habitat degradation issues. This approach is becoming popular in more rural locations in order to avoid the construction of engineered features which are regarded as being large, obtrusive, expensive and unsustainable.

Through a participatory action and citizen science approach, the Haltwhistle Burn PhD project has also encouraged community-based monitoring activities and observation sharing. This co-production of knowledge has helped to confirm:

  • Where all the main flood risk issues are in the catchment;
  • Which key tributaries contribute to the flood peak in the town;
  • Where rapid erosion of sediment occurs (therefore the sources of sediment);
  • Which tributaries suffer from poor water quality;
  • Where sediment and debris is deposited, causing blockages along the burn.

With support from Tyne Rivers Trust, the Haltwhistle Burn River Watch group has helped to install a number of NFM features and supporting land management practices over the past two years. Features have been chosen to ensure the watercourses are not disturbed under normal and low flow conditions. Instead they have been designed so that they help to slow, store and filter peak flow during storm conditions. Why? This approach holds flood water back at source in the upper parts of the Haltwhistle Burn catchment and releases it more slowly once the storm has passed. As a result, the flood peaks are much lower once they reach the town i.e. the impact zone. ‘Leaky dams’ have been a popular choice here - these are tree trunks which are placed perpendicular to the flow of the water. This causes peak flows to deflect and spill out onto the surrounding floodplain. With the help of extra ‘obstacles’ (such as brash bundles), the floodplain is also rougher which helps to slow down the velocity of the water and allow sediment to settle out (rather than clogging up culverts and bridges downstream). So in short, by slowing the flow, less damage and erosion is caused, more sediment can settle out, less habitats are washed away and flood waters are released over a longer period of time.

Two interesting examples of NFM and the community include:

  • Leaky dams along the Pont Gallon Burn above High Edges Green. To see how they reacted during the December 2014 floods, watch this video (which shows high velocities entering the NFM zone which then right down once they filter through the dams and brash bundles): Photos and videos are the most popular type of observation collected by citizen scientists. Is this video therefore meaningful and useful to catchment stakeholders?
  • Leaky dams at Haughtongreen (a tributary of Greenlee Lough): Following the December 2014 floods, volunteers from the River Watch group travelled up to the top of the catchment, beyond Greenlee Lough in January 2015 to inspect a set of leaky dams (which they helped to build in 2014). They found that some of the features needed repairing and therefore took photographic evidence. This triggered the group to head up a few weeks ago to repair any damage. Community-based monitoring has therefore supported the maintenance of NFM features.

New NFM features installed - the Slaty Sike: 

A runoff management plan was developed for the Slaty Sike (a 1.1km2 headwater sub-catchment of the Haltwhistle Burn) in the form of a report and interactive map. After a few months of planning and discussions with land owners, permission was granted to construct a set of ponds and woody debris features. They were officially constructed w/c 30th June 2015, with horse power to help shift the logs into place! The two sets of features have been designed to offer multiple benefits, particularly those related to water quality and flood risk.

Where are the Slaty Sike features located? 

It is anticipated that the River Watch group will carry out regular monitoring activities in order to i) see how they perform over time and under different flow conditions and ii) keep an eye on any maintenance required.

Further links:

  • Take a look at the following Flickr album to view all catchment management measures implemented within the Haltwhistle Burn catchment:


Please share this news item:

Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Send Email

9th June 2015: Update from NCC Hemmel Burn flood risk study & call for photos

The Hemmel Burn is a culverted watercourse which passes underneath the middle of Haltwhistle, including Haltwhistle Community Campus. It runs through a pipe south-east towards the Haltwhistle Burn near the B6322 road.

Various organisations, including Northumberland County Council, are working together to understand and help reduce the risk of flooding from the Hemmel Burn. They are currently asking the community to share any photos or videos of flooding from the burn in order to improve their flood models. They are also interested in any known flood depths, dates, times and locations.  

Read the latest newsletter (June 2015) to find out more about the project, progress to date and to find relevant contact details to send flood information to.

June 2015 - Hemmel Burn flood risk study (ii) PDF 157Kb

Hemmel Burn Newsletter 1 (June 2015)

19th & 20th May 2015: Haltwhistle Burn project features as a key case study in national citizen science conference workshop

The River Restoration Centre (RRC) encourages sustainable river restoration and enhance schemes across the UK. The team is regarded as being the ‘UK’s expert information and advice centre’. They held their two day 16th annual conference in Northamptonshire on the 19th and 20th May 2015. As we move further towards a total ‘catchment based approach’, which encourages a community-led approach to the management of our water environments on a local level, the conference was themed around people and process based river management.

There were various talks across the two days, each presenting river restoration case studies from around the UK. It was clear that most speakers were stressing the importance of monitoring as it provides stakeholders with evidence, thus confidence. Many restoration projects admitted that monitoring is often ‘forgotten about’ beyond the lifetime of the project. Local River Trusts were also reminding the audience that i) they need low cost monitoring solutions and ii) it’s not just about the quantity and quality of the data; involving the community in the catchment management process is equally as important.

Citizen science is a fairly new phenomenon in the catchment management sector, mainly because professionals have developed and refined technique over many years in order to monitor weather and water parameters. This was one of the first times that citizen science was a key component of this national conference in the UK.

The Haltwhistle Burn citizen science project was one of five case studies presented during the citizen science workshop. Haltwhistle was used to emphasise how local data is still inadequate in rural UK catchments and community-based monitoring techniques can be used to fill the gap. Engagement, tools and monitoring techniques were described to show how evolving technology and communications provides a timely and low-cost solution to data collection, whilst offering various social benefits, including community empowerment. The abstract and presentation slides can be viewed on the RRC website.

Other key quotes / findings from the conference included:

  • When analysing the effects of natural flood management, trends are enough to convince and provide credibility rather than statistical significant results
  • Evidence is required to secure future funding and influence policy
  • “Following our restoration project we realise the importance of understanding the catchment and the need for monitoring”
  • Data must be fit for purpose
  • “We must understand how each sub-catchment contributes to the flow and flood peak”
  •  Catchment management now includes both human and physical geography – we must appreciate social, economic and political factors.
  • "Citizen science - is it time to join up?"

April / May 2015 - Modelling the Haltwhistle Burn catchment with community's data