‘Flood and Flow’ is a two-year research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust involving the universities of Leicester, Nottingham, Southampton, and Wales.

Flooding is the most serious environmental challenge currently facing the UK. It is estimated that 1:6 (5.2 million) homes in England alone are at risk from flooding, whether from river floods, coastal flooding, or surface run-off. Public and political concern over flooding and its impact has never been greater.

Place-names (particularly those that are over a thousand years old) might feel a strange place to start to look for answers and solutions to modern flooding. But place-names were originally designed to say something about the places they were attached to; and very often what place-namers chose to describe was the local environment. These names, many familiar to us but which we rarely stop to think about, are one of the most valuable records we have when it comes to mapping the presence, characteristics and behaviour of water in the landscape.

We are interested in exploring the value of these names for our own times. Another kind of ‘water out of place’ if you like. Can we learn from the information they contain? What warnings do they hold for us in terms of where we might build? Might they be useful in guiding where we might restore wetlands or replant woodland in order to Slow the Flow? It is these aspects of place-names that we want to explore in these pages.

Image: Blakeney NRF: ‘Blacca’s or the black island’

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