A revolutionary vision for freshwater biodiversity and people

Restoring Historic Floodplains could be the biggest conservation change in England and Wales of the next 50 years. Our vision for floodplains will be revolutionary for freshwater biodiversity – and will provide multiple benefits for people.

A major opportunity for freshwater

Historic Floodplain is the area defined by the 1:100 flood zone. Covering 16,000 square km, our Historic Floodplains represent about 11% of the land area of England and Wales.

The Historic Floodplain is approximately 15% urbanised and 85% green space. And this makes it a major opportunity area for freshwater biodiversity protection and restoration.

Most floodplain is severely damaged by centuries of drainage and pollution. But with a total area of around 1.4million hectares, excluding urban areas, restoration of floodplains alone could largely meet Environment Act targets for nature-friendly habitat restoration.

Two men standing by a waterbody, one pointing to something in the distance

- David Morris (Freshwater Habitats Trust) and Richard Watson (National Trust) at a newly-created floodplain wetland mosaic habitat at Coleshill on the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border.

How we'll do it

Centred on land inside the 1:100 year floodplain, restored Historic Floodplain has the potential to benefit people and freshwater nature. From city to countryside, from rewilded wet forests to rich riverine grasslands, we’ll work to restore these important habitats.  

Restoring floodplains can mean restoring natural river flooding, but it doesn’t always mean that. Sometimes, rivers are too polluted and flood water would be damaging. That’s why we’ll focus on restoring naturally functioning floodplain mosaics of marsh, pool, grass and woodland to bring these traditionally low-lying areas to life.  

Working collaboratively with landowners and other partners, our focus will be on large scale deintensification of the land. Together, we’ll recreate more natural floodplains and rewild selected areas. This will deliver multiple benefits, including protecting wildlife, storing carbon, and reducing the risk of flooding


Aerial view of field with several ponds.

- Aerial view of Manor Farm, Chearsley, Buckinghamshire, on the floodplain of the River Thame, where Freshwater Habitats Trust and the River Thame Conservation Trust have created wetland mosaic habitats for wildlife.

Our work to build the Freshwater Network

Discover more about our work to restore historic floodplains and build the Freshwater Network.

Oxfordshire-Buckinghamshire Freshwater Network

We’re restoring historic floodplains to bring clean water back to Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Oxfordshire–Buckinghamshire Freshwater Network
River Irfon Catchment project

Local people are helping us to protect clean water habitats in the River Irfon catchment in mid-Wales.

Find out more
Plants growing in shallow water.
New Forest Catchment Partnership

We’re working in partnership to restore some of Europe’s most internationally-significant floodplain habitats.

Find out more

Working together for freshwater wildlife

We can’t build the Freshwater Network alone. That’s why we’re working with many partners across England and Wales, including landowners, other conservation NGOs and funders, to restore Historic Floodplains and create a better future for freshwater wildlife.

Get in touch to find out how you can work with us to build a wetter, wilder, cleaner, connected Freshwater Network.

Contact us
Group of people walking down a hill through a field, with a large pond behind.

- Staff from Freshwater Habitats Trust, River Thame Conservation Trust and the Waddesdon estate, where we're created new habitats with our partners. Photo: Jill Mead.