What is FLOW?
FLOW (Fixing and Linking Our Wetlands) is a Heritage Lottery Funded Project to survey and improve the ditch network of the Manhood Peninsula*, to prevent flooding and increase vital habitat for wildlife. *Which includes the parishes: Apuldram, Donnington, Earnley, East Wittering, Bracklesham, Hunston, North Mundham, Selsey, Sidlesham, West Wittering, plus West Itchenor and Birdham, which were previously surveyed as part of another project.
The project started in 2015, with a pilot phase of 6 months of ditch condition assessments in West Wittering, followed by 3 months of mapping the wetlands of the parish. An analysis of findings were then written with a costed management plan of improvements of the wetlands, that would benefit both drainage and wildlife.
Read about the history of the project so far…
October 2015 to May 2016 ~ West Wittering Parish
September 2016 to June 2017 ~ East Wittering and Bracklesham Parish
June 2017 to February 2018 ~ Earnley Parish
March 2018 to November 2018 ~ Sidlesham Parish
July 2018 to Present ~ Selsey and Hunston Parishes
December 2020 ~ Project Ends
March 2021 ~ Final Project Report will be Delivered to Heritage Lottery Fund
Why Ditches and ponds?
The network of waterways on the Manhood Peninsula, connect the protected areas of Pagham Harbour, Medmerry and Chichester Harbour and their upkeep is not just of benefit to wildlife but increasingly to people, as more frequent flooding events take place. Using a range of land management strategies, the capacity of ponds and the ability of rifes and ditches to flow water away to the sea is improved, lowering the risk of flooding and providing a stable and important home to many species, including the fast-declining water vole.
Read about our methods for improving wetlands…
Installing Coir Rolls
Coir rolls (rolls of coconut husk fibre) can be integrated into the banks of ditches to prevent soil erosion and provide a fertile base for native plants to grow. Using this planting technique allows roots to grow quickly into the ground, further stabilizing the banks.
Adding plants to wetland brings many benefits, increasing the overall water capacity and providing food and cover for wildlife. However, excess flora can deter mammals from burrowing and block the free-flow of water, resulting in ground flooding and stagnant water, unsuitable for animals.
Hedge Laying and Coppicing
Hedgerows and woodland are known as ‘wildlife corridors’, that link different wetland habitats together, therefore managing the surrounding area of ditches a vital step to encourage wildlife to these habitats.
Filling in hedge gaps with shrubs, combined with the age-old method of fencing – hedge laying – provide permeable barriers for wildlife to pass through, whilst also protecting ditches from being trampled by cattle.
Coppicing manages the direction of growth for trees which are over-shadowing waterways and brings light to aquatic plants, allowing them to thrive. Deadwood from falling branches, and sometimes entire trees, block the water flow as well, and so must be removed. Dead-hedges can be made from this material, which make a great habitat for insects.
Wildlife and Habitat Surveys
A core part of the FLOW Project is to gather data needed for GIS mapping, to highlight any physical work required by volunteers or contractors and to monitor species populations. Recording evidence or sightings of vulnerable and rare species, ensures our planned improvements, and any local works by other organizations and government bodies, will be sympathetic to the wildlife present.
The water vole’s population is nationally threatened, but locally we are fortunate enough to have colonies in our area. The species’ survival is reliant on the continued absence of American mink and active monitoring of this invasive predator is important for overall biodiversity, across the Peninsula. Mink rafts record footprints and are used check for the presence of mink, so that decisions can be made about their removal.
Footage of a mink leaving footprints on a raft. August 2017.
Who implements the project?
The FLOW team is made up of local volunteers, led by FLOW Project leader Jane Reeve BSc (Hons) MSc, who previously managed the Water Vole Project, and our Field Officer, Christopher Drake BSc. Our volunteers are trained in a range of skills, including: GIS mapping, hedge laying, surveying, species identification and landscaping, to restore the wetland network safely and effectively. Many of our volunteers bring with them their own expertise of land management and wildlife, while others with a passion for the protection of the environment, grow their knowledge with us.
Read about how you can get involved with the project…
New volunteers of all ages and abilities are always welcome to join the FLOW team! FLOW volunteers can take part in a number of ways, including: wildlife and habitat surveying, GIS data inputting and physical landscaping work.
Reports and Results
The FLOW team produce regular e-bulletin updates, detailed management plans and progress reports, for each parish where work is undertaken. FLOW Project statistics so far, as of summer 2018…
See our e-bulletin updates and full parish reports…