Managing water using nature: what’s happening locally


There are quite a few inspiring local initiatives to use natural methods to support our waterways and reduce the risk of flood. Ann Link gives a round-up of what’s happening


Restoring the Cockshut Stream
Imagine a new wetland nature reserve on the outskirts of Lewes, with a chalk stream meandering through young trees. Wildlife is returning and people can walk nearby and hear birds singing. This will actually happen over the next few years.

In Lewes Town, near Lewes Priory, the Cockshut is a precious chalk stream flowing through a 1-kilometre artificial channel clogged by parrot’s feather and other invasive species. Working with partners, the council plans to realign the stream by filling in the old channel, eradicating the problem plants. In time, the stream will flow into a new wetland where trees will be planted.

There will be public access so that people can enjoy the new environment. Instead of a straight ditch there will be a clear chalk stream meandering through the floodplain. You can learn more about the plans in depth in a great factsheet that the South Downs National Park has produced here.

Promoting natural flood management
To promote natural flood management on the River Ouse, Lewes District Council takes a partnership approach, working with Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust and Sussex Flow Initiative, landowners and others that the council has been supporting. This work reduces the risk of flooding, increases biodiversity, assists in improving water quality and helps make our district more climate resilient.

For example:

  • Leaky dams are being installed in many places including Chailey Common, Plashet Wood near Isfield, Hoath Wood above Newhaven and West Wood near Wivelsfield. Leaky dams are a natural flood management method that involves putting branches and twigs across streams and flow paths to help slow the flow and hold water in the landscape, and then draining the water gradually when flood flows have passed.
  • Rainscapes have been created to slow water flow at a school in Wivelsfield. You can read more about this project on the Lewes District Council website here.
  • LDC and partner organisations are reducing the risk of flooding for around 15 homes in Ringmer by creating a new wetland. They are also working with the Cuilfail community on reducing run-off affecting the South Street area of Lewes.


For more on local natural water and flood management projects, here are some useful links:

Sussex Flow Initiative (see its latest five-year report on its work here)

Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust

Lewes District Council – Natural Flood Management




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