The Manhood Peninsula is made up of flat low lying agricultural land below 10ms that is crisscrossed with drainage ditches and rifes. There are also many junction ponds (deeper areas where ditches meet) and farm ponds, as well as the Chichester and Pagham Harbours, the Chichester Canal and the new Medmerry managed realignment site to the west of Selsey at the southern tip of the peninsula. These different wetlands combine to make up approximately 235 kilometres of riparian habitat (areas alongside the water channels) that occur in all the parishes. These form important refuges for many wildlife species, including the Water Vole, England’s most rapidly declining mammal. A recent study (Sept 2013) revealed a further decline of 20%.
Managing these various waterways as a single connected habitat is a challenge involving the cooperation of many parties including parishes, farmers and landowners. Any works carried out for flood or drainage purposes will have an impact on the network and therefore impacts on the wildlife need to be considered. Baseline surveys are an important tool to help find out what’s there.
In June and December 2012 there were extreme flooding events on the peninsula that highlighted the issues of drainage, and particularly, blocked culverts and unmanaged, neglected and unconnected ditches. A lack of management contributed to the flooding in places as the water could not escape and households were flooded. This ditch network can only drain when it’s not locked in by the tide so even with all management in place there are still times when flooding will occur.
West Sussex County Council (WSCC) published a report on the floods and set up a fund, Operation Watershed, to help local groups finance and manage local community projects.
More information can be found on the website: http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/living/roads_and_transport/roads_and_footways/managing_the_highway_network/operation_watershed
Address: Operation Watershed, WSCC, Northleigh, County Hall, Chichester, PO19 1RH← Wetland management for people and wildlife Contents Why ditches are important →