Tree planting project to help fight future flooding in the South Downs National Park

Flooding at Stedham
Flooding at Stedham

FARMERS, businesses, conservation organisations and the South Downs National Park Authority are working together to fight flooding and soil erosion.

They are joining together on a project to plant 600 trees on farmland in a bid to help prevent flooding in the future and to improve water quality, alongside the landscape and environment of the South Downs.

More than a million people depend on water from the national park, but much of this ground and river water is currently failing EU standards due to pollution. Problems include soil from farmland being deposited in the rivers, interrupting river flow, and also contributing to flood risk.

David Hamilton Fox, farm manager for the Cowdray Estate, said: “The River Rother in the heart of the South Downs National Park floods most years, but this winter has been particularly bad.

“As well as misery for people, we have lost a considerable amount of topsoil, which is vital for growing crops, and will eventually increase the silt in the river – perhaps leading to more flooding.

“We’re working with the South Downs National Park Authority, the Universities of Northampton and Oxford, and the Arun and Rother Rivers Trust as part of a project to identify precisely where the soil erosion is happening and exactly where to take action to prevent it in the future.

“We’re already using soil traps which have made some improvement, but we’re now going to plant 600 native trees on the estate – it’s a very sustainable way to make the ground more stable.”

In addition new research being developed in partnership with the Environment Agency, Southern Water, Portsmouth Water and the Downs and Harbours Clean Water Partnership – is aimed at identifying the specific causes of nitrate pollution so they can be directly targeted by water companies and other partners.

Chairman of the NPA, Margaret Paren said: “The Partnership Management Plan for the South Downs National Park, launched this week, demonstrates how people and organisations are working together to care for and protect these very special landscapes.

“Our water partnerships with farmers, water companies and conservation organisations are just one of the many examples of new projects that are being put in place.”