Four Norfolk communities - along with three in Suffolk - have been selected to receive a share of a £6.4m fund to help them tackle floods and droughts.

The successful locations for the government-funded ‘Reclaim the Rain’ project will introduce a range of measures over the coming six months to allow them to become more resilient to flooding, while making better use of any excess water they receive.

Three bids for funding in each of the two counties were selected by the project management team.

In Norfolk, Woodton, near Bungay, was chosen, as was Thompson, near Watton.

Watton and the nearby village of Merton were meanwhile selected together as a joint bid.

Eastern Daily Press: Heavy rainfall in Watton in 2009Heavy rainfall in Watton in 2009 (Image: Archant)

Some 37 applications for the funding were made across the two counties.

The projects could involve several measures, from smaller-scale interventions like installing water butts or new ditches, to habitat restorations and the creation of larger flood-water storage basins which could be linked to irrigation networks for farms to use.

It is hoped that lessons learnt from each of the individual schemes will be used to inform future policy-making and investment in flood protection and water retention.


Thompson Parish Council chair Jean Kaye said: “In the last six years, we’ve had two really bad flooding events and several people in the village had houses underwater in the second one - somebody had to move out of the house for several months.”

Eastern Daily Press: Thompson's duck pond. The village is among the communities to have been selected for funding through the 'Reclaim the Rain' scheme.Thompson's duck pond. The village is among the communities to have been selected for funding through the 'Reclaim the Rain' scheme. (Image: Archant © 2006)

Those two major events were a flood on the same day as the Brexit referendum, June 23, 2016, and the severe thunderstorms of August 16, 2020.

Ms Kaye added: “In common with most of the small villages in Norfolk, we’ve got no mains drainage at all. A few houses - which were built not that long after the war - have their own water treatment plant, but that’s less than 20 houses. The rest have septic tanks and private treatment plants.

“With the heavy rain that we’ve had in 2020, a lot of those houses had great difficulty with groundwater getting into their septic tanks. Some people were having to get their septic tanks emptied weekly.”

“This seemed like a good opportunity to do something which would benefit the houses in our village, and to use the water more productively.”

The first stage when it comes to using the funding, she said, will be to try to learn more about the village’s geology, and what specific measures will be most effective to improve its flood resilience.

Eastern Daily Press: Neighbours clean up after the flooding in Aircraft Drive, Watton Picture: Chris BishopNeighbours clean up after the flooding in Aircraft Drive, Watton Picture: Chris Bishop (Image: Archant)


In Woodton, local resident Sarah Mann submitted an application for her village to be considered for the funding, with the flood of Christmas 2020 at the forefront of her mind.

She said: “I felt we must take every opportunity available to work with the various agencies and initiatives to improve things for both our village and the wider area, as we are conscious of further villages downstream who were also hit hard.

“This is just one avenue being worked on but as they say 'you've got to be in it to win it'.

“Woodton is sited in a funnel-like situation from a wide area which can be dry as a bone for much of the year, but also becomes something else in heavy rain.

“We are hoping to use the funding to work with local land owners, businesses and the community to make better use of rainfall and create further educational space, and look forward to any other suggestions the Reclaim the Rain project team have.”

Eastern Daily Press: George Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid NorfolkGeorge Freeman, Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk (Image: Richard Townshend Photography)


Watton’s bid had meanwhile won support from local Conservative MP George Freeman, who in March wrote on his website, that it “would be an excellent opportunity to deliver positive and lasting benefits for [Watton’s] residents and businesses, pioneering innovative techniques that can then in time be rolled out to our other problem hotspots”.

Thompson lies just south of Merton and Watton, and in a joint statement, local county councillors Claire Bowes and Fabian Eagle said they were “delighted that these three adjacent communities have been accepted for the scheme”.

Eric Vardy, Norfolk County Council’s Conservative cabinet member for environment, said: “We all know that water management is vital all year round – the impact of too little water can be as serious as too much, and managing our resources to mitigate both flooding and drought is a major challenge.

Eastern Daily Press: Eric Vardy is the new North Norfolk district councillor for Holt ward.Eric Vardy is the new North Norfolk district councillor for Holt ward. (Image: Supplied by the Conservatives)

“This project is allowing us to work with local communities to bring in innovative, bold ideas to make the best use of our water and I’m looking forward to seeing the results: getting this right in Norfolk will set an example for groups across the country to follow and demonstrate how we can make our communities stronger and more resilient.”

In Suffolk, the villages of Boxford, Little Blakenham, and Friston were selected.