Great Ayton is situated in Hambleton District on the edge of the North York Moors National Park in North Yorkshire within commuting distance of the Teesside urban conurbation. The village sits at the foot of the Cleveland Hills beneath Easby Moor and the distinctively shaped Roseberry Topping. The River Leven, a tributary of the River Tees flows through the village and links its twin centre, High Green and Low Green.
The main risk of flooding is from the River Leven and its feeder streams Broughton Beck and Otter Hills Beck to the south and Main Stell to the north of the village. Parts of the village have been flooded in 1930 and 2000. In January 2008 the river almost burst its banks, but did so flooding 5 properies in July of the same year.
The River Leven literally splits the village in two with a number of road and pedestrian bridge crossings. The houses range in date and architectural style and construction from 1730 to the present day. Many of the older properties are either of solid stone or solid brick construction. In the lower end of the high street some main entrances are virtually at street level with a very low threshold whilst others are set back from the road with a height differential of about 1.2m to the front entrances. Many properties on the North Side of the High Street have elaborate timber door surrounds with carved details. Some properties have air bricks which vent under floor and the oldest properties near the main road bridge have decorative cast iron gratings, many in poor condition which would require renewal and replacing with a flood angel type air brick. Many of the properties also required repointing
This was a pilot project and the first of its kind in England. Funding was provided by the Environment Agency direct to Great Ayton Parish Council to protect up to 50 homes in Great Ayton that had been identified as eligible for inclusion on a property level protection scheme. As the client, it was the responsibility of Great Ayton Parish Council to ensure transparency at all stages of procurement and installation. Under the agreement between the Environment Agency and the Parish Council, two thirds of the funding was provided by the EA via Local Levy, with homeowners covering the remaining one third of the cost. The Parish Council was responsible for the administration and implementation of the scheme.
In June 2011 the Environment Agency and North York Moors National Park Authority launched a new apprenticeship scheme for six young people aged 16 to 24. The purpose of the apprenticeship was to work on natural flood management measures on the moors and woodland above Great Ayton, to identify sites with local landowners to develop, design and install measures to slow down or divert flood water. Other measures such as hedge laying, drystone walling, habitat restoration and creation, and maintenance of rights of way were also included in the scheme.