Towards the end of December 2013 the River Ouse over spilled into the flood plain at Sheffield Park. This was a sign of things to come as the whole meadow was eventually under water during the Christmas storms a matter of weeks later. However, at this point in time the flooding was minimal and simply gave us a chance to see what the meadow would look like if the meanders were reinstated.
It was a beautiful frosty morning with the meadow initially covered in mist. During our trip down there the mists cleared and the sun came out showing that it is a picturesque place to be even in winter.
On 14th August 2013 one of our volunteers, John Luck, undertook a further dragonfly survey on the flood meadow. This is an annual survey, which charts the progress of different species and logs the difference in numbers from one year to the next.
“The group was particularly keen that I should visit the river stretch again this year, which I did. This produced the expected Banded demoiselles (in good numbers) plus a few Beautiful demoiselles, also a Migrant hawker. The river is quite fast flowing along this stretch so I cannot imagine reopening the meanders will do anything but good for Odonata.”
On 6th June 2013 members of the Engagement group from the Adur–Ouse Catchment met at Sheffield Park to look at the project, enjoying a walk in the sunshine. We got a flavour of the great things to come for our visitors and the day was made even better by fleeting glimpses of a kingfisher.
We discussed ways in which river restoration can enhance both landscape and visitor experience, and ended the afternoon with tea and cake in the Coach House Tearoom.
Walking across the flood meadow at Sheffield Park. The impressions of the original meanders are just visible.
The sun shone and we saw dragonflies (Common darter) despite it being November – the original aim was to look at habitat management so the sighting was a real bonus. A walk to the site stimulated much debate. Comments from group included:
“Many thanks for a very informative and enjoyable morning. The site promises to be a fantastic resource. We’re very glad we live nearby!”
“Could consideration be given to the deposition of gravel to allow breeding by sea trout? This is what the Ouse and Adur River Trust have been doing elsewhere with some success.”
“My children & I all enjoyed the presentations and I was very interested in the proposals for reintroducing 2 of the 3 meanders in the meadow …. I support the plan to reintroduce the meanders and look forward to helping to monitor the resulting changes in flora within the meadow.”
What comes out of our river?
On 2 November 2012 members of the project team visited South East Water Treatment works at Barcombe to see first hand how much sediment needs to come out of the River Ouse as part of the water treatment process. Sediment gets into rivers through rainfall which runs off the land and stays in the river until Barcombe. This pile of sediment is how much comes out of the river over a 1-2 day period. This all has to be transported back up the catchment to go back on the land.
The potential of re-connecting the meanders at Sheffield Park would help to slow the flow increasing flooding across the floodplain helping to reduce the sediment load in the river.
Other projects are in progress to try to reduce the amount of sediment getting into the river.
Compressed soil block: soil that has come out of the river is compressed and taken back up the catchment
Tree planting on the floodplain
Back in December 2010 the National Trust, Environment Agency and Sussex Wildlife Trust spent the day planting trees on the floodplain of the Ouse. Around 0.5 Ha of mixed floodplain woodland trees including Black poplars were planted at Spring Farm by Sheffield Park to create this rare and rapidly declining habitat. The creation of the woodland will help reduce flooding downstream by reducing water flows and increasing water storage areas on the flood plain.