Aerial surveys reveals North Devon’s flooding secrets

A 3D map view of East-the-Water, Bideford, taken by the LiDAR laser mapping survey. Picture: Tellus

A 3D map view of East-the-Water, Bideford, taken by the LiDAR laser mapping survey. Picture: Tellus South West. - Credit: Tellus South West

‘Unprecedented’ Tellus South West mapping project reveals the land in detail as never before.

A 3D map view of the cliffs at Foreland Point near Lynmouth – Devon’s most northerly point, taken by

A 3D map view of the cliffs at Foreland Point near Lynmouth – Devon’s most northerly point, taken by the LiDAR laser mapping survey. Picture: Tellus South West. - Credit: Tellus South West

NORTH Devon is one of the ‘culprits’ responsible for the catastrophic flooding of the Somerset Levels, a groundbreaking aerial survey project has revealed.

A 3D map view of looking inland over the Old Burrow Roman Fortlet near Countisbury taken by the LiDA

A 3D map view of looking inland over the Old Burrow Roman Fortlet near Countisbury taken by the LiDAR laser mapping survey. Picture: Tellus South West. - Credit: Tellus South West

The Tellus South West project has mapped the soils, rocks, landscape and ecology to unprecedented depth and detail.

A 3D map view overlooking Ilfracombe, taken by the LiDAR laser mapping survey. Picture: Tellus South

A 3D map view overlooking Ilfracombe, taken by the LiDAR laser mapping survey. Picture: Tellus South West. - Credit: Tellus South West

It could prove crucial to understanding or preventing flooding in North Devon and further afield – including the revelation that run off from here helped feed floods in Somerset earlier this year that left communities cut off for weeks.

Tellus was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and a joint venture between the British Geological Survey, British Antarctic Survey and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.


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The maps and data can be freely downloaded, and provide world-leading information on natural resources, the landscape and environment that will be used by businesses, government and scientists for many years to come.

A whole raft of uses could include agriculture, mining, quarrying, new developments and environmental work.

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For the first time the whole South West was covered by two airborne surveys, a low flying geophysical one and a specialist high flying Lidar survey where a laser is bounced off the ground to give a map accurate to a few centimetres.

Dr Andy Howard of the British Geological Survey said the project had gone extremely well and was all about getting better data for the experts to work with.

“One of the things we really needed to know about was what happens to rainwater when it hits the ground, how much is absorbed into the soil and rivers and how much contributes to flooding,” he said.

North Devon had many drainage systems confined to steep valleys, he said, such as that which caused the Lynmouth disaster, and better understanding of where water will go would help manage flood risk.

“Some of the drainage from North Devon flows eastwards towards the Somerset Levels, so knowing how it flows will help us in the future to understand how that flooding works and to alleviate it.”

For more information on the project visit www.tellusgb.ac.uk

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