The Elms Ditch Story

FLOW Project leader, Jane, talks us through a photo diary of changes made The Elms site, in Sidlesham.

This relic ditch was identified for improvement during the ditch surveys of Sidlesham parish. This ditch was very overgrown with willows but also had mature oaks, leylandii and some hazel, hawthorn and blackthorn along its far banks. The ditch itself was large but very shallow and dark with no wetland vegetation present. There had been significant flooding on the corner road junction in 2012 / 2013 and we identified potential for this ditch to hold more water and also be opened up so that a greater range of plants would colonise the banks.

The work we have been carrying out would have been carried out by beavers in previous years – trimming out tree growth, digging out pools to keep them wet and creating micro-climates for other species to exploit.

20 March 2018

Ditch dark and overgrown, unable to hold water for long as shallow and full of debris.

08 July 2018

Species surveying

09 November 2018

Ditch cannot be seen, overwhelmed with willow and debris.

14 November 2018

Trees cut on the verge side of the bank to get light onto the ditch area. Volunteers go in to start cutting it out – removing the willow, bramble and overhanging branches.

15 November 2018

Continuation of work – trees cut on the verge side of the bank to get light onto the ditch area. Volunteers go in to start cutting it out – removing the willow, bramble and overhanging branches.

16 November 2018

Continuation with debris removal and burning of material. Good material for dead hedging kept

19 – 22 November 2018 – Contractor work

Contractors come in to remove willow from the ditch, bring down the height of trees and open up the ditch. Diggers brought in to help with tree removal and digging the ditch deeper.


23-24 November 2018

Volunteers spend two days raking and digging the verge to remove debris and the deep ruts the machinery of the contractors left. Also put in some channels to take water off the road.


Summary of November work

Work for 2019


During early 2019, this site will have dry coir rolls installed and these will be planted with a range of wetland plant species. The banks will also be seeded with specialist wildflower seeds for heavy clay and wetland areas. The water levels will be monitored to see if any further digging or management is required and over the spring and summer species surveying will be continued.

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