Current Action [top]
of floodplain grassland that are of conservation importance continue
to be designated as SSSIs or SNCIs which gives them protection against
built developments. SSSIs receive statutory protection whereby landowners
are obliged to notify English Nature of any potentially damaging
requires Water Level Management Plans (WLMP) to be produced for
each water-based SSSI. A WLMP is an agreement over control of water
levels between landowners, the Agency and EN. The plan defines areas
that require attention, outlines procedures for maintenance and
recording/monitoring of the area, and sets an interval for reviewing
the plan. Sympathetic maintenance and reprofiling, and water quantity
are addressed by WLMPs. Water quantity can simply mean water level
management in ditch SSSIs, but for other wetlands it may mean attending
to the hydrology of the site with interactions between ground water
and surface water tables having to be taken into account.
have been written for several areas in Sussex. The Pevensey Levels
SSSI area has been divided up into eight areas which have drainage
systems that can be managed separately. Sub-plans have been written
for five of the eight areas, two of these have been circulated to
landowners whose comments have been noted. Where plans suggest changes
in management or the installation of a new structure the Environment
Agency will discuss the proposals with the landowners concerned.
After the first of the individual sub-plans was completed in 1996,
the Wildlife Enhancement Scheme funded five major sluices, installed
by the agreement holders, at sites identified in the WLMP to control
water levels in that block. The remaining plans are either in preparation
or being circulated to landowners. The development of WLMPs offers
the opportunity to raise water levels and encourage bird life, which
has declined on the levels since pumped drainage was installed in
the 1960s. However, in order for farmers to take up the management
initiatives in the plan, realistic, long-term incentives need to
be in place.
Wildbrooks was another priority area for the completion of a WLMP.
The first plan has been written and was published in 1996; a two
inch trial rise in water level across the brooks is being continued.
Draft plans have also been written for Combe Haven, Milton Gate
Marsh, Offham Marshes, Waltham Brooks, Upper Arun, Lewes Brooks
and Arun Banks.
Railway Land Local Nature Reserve is an area (10.1 ha) of floodplain
meadow and disused railway. The land is owned partly by a local
farmer, Lewes District Council and Lewes Railway Land Trust. The
land is managed sympathetically and cattle graze the meadows. There
are plans to raise the water levels in the ditches in the next year
(by 1999), this would reduce the need for fencing by creating wet
fences. There is an area of reedbed that has been created along
the old railway line. Since the site became a local nature reserve
in 1995, surveys have shown that the species richness of the area
has increased (pers.com., A.Kennedy).
Valley Local Nature Reserve in Haywards Heath is 7.7 ha of wet meadows
(2.6 ha) and woodland on a tributary of the Ouse. Wet grassland
plants are successfully being encouraged to spread by hay cutting
in late August, and the coppicing of willow stands. Species important
at this site are meadow thistle Cirsium dissectum, marsh cinquefoil
Potentilla palustris and marsh speedwell Veronica scutellata.
Ouse and Arun Valley Project Officers work with farmers and landowners
to encourage environmentally responsible farming and promote the
Countryside Stewardship Scheme. The project officers help farmers
draw up management plans for their land and draw up and submit applications
to Countryside Stewardship on behalf of the landowners and farmers.
(from April 1st, 1999 the Arun Project expanded to include the Western
the Ouse Valley there are several projects for floodplain grassland
creation. For example, at a farm near Sheffield Park, the new owners
propose to revert approximately 15 ha of arable land back to floodplain
grassland (using local provenance seed stock) with some floodplain
Sussex Downs Conservation Board is currently in negotiations for
a major wetland enhancement scheme at West Dean Brooks in East Sussex
(32.4 ha). A draft management plan for this has been written.
RSPB reserve at Pulborough Brooks is a good example of how floodplain
grassland can be restored. Water levels within the site are managed
to allow shallow winter flooding and flash flooding in some areas
(RSPB, 1997b). Ditches were cleared and reprofiled, and are now
cleared on a 3-7 year rotation. Along with the hydrological management,
traditional mowing and grazing regimes were reinstated. The success
of this management is shown by the increasing numbers of birds wintering
and breeding on the reserve. The management has also been beneficial
to other types of wildlife, such as the sharp-leaved pondweed Potamogeton
acutifolius, which is in the Red Data Book.
Wildlife Trust now owns 81.8 ha of Amberley Wildbrooks SSSI, which
is managed as a reserve by the RSPB. The site is managed in a similar
way to Pulborough Brooks with hydrological management allowing winter
splash flooding, and traditional cattle grazing regimes. This is
a new reserve created when SWT purchased a further 49.4 ha in 1995/96.
There have already been increases in breeding wader numbers and
there is the potential for increases in breeding and wintering wader
and waterfowl numbers (RSPB, 1997a). SWT also own reserves at Waltham
Brooks (42.9 ha) and Pevensey Marshes (138.8 ha).
the Agency s Flood Defence department carried out floodbank repairs
to the north-west of Amberley Wildbrooks SSSI, an opportunity to
enhance the wildlife value of the area arose. Spoil from the creation
of scrapes was used to build up the flood banks. This work was done
in partnership between the Agency, English Nature, Sussex Wildlife
Trust and RSPB. The RSPB warden came up with the idea of excavating
a tidal inlet from the River Arun to encourage reed growth for nesting
birds. Even though the work was only recently completed, the scrapes
have already shown an increase in wildlife.
of an area of floodplain grassland at Tide Mills, south-east of
Newhaven, is proposed. The total area of this is about 80 ha, though
this is proposed to be a mosaic of habitats, including reedbed (pers.com.,
A.Tait, East Sussex County Council).
of the problems for ditch systems is the introduction of alien species,
such as floating pennywort, Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, in Hurst
Haven, Pevensey Levels. This plant is causing particular problems
because it grows very quickly, choking the waterway. Consequently,
the flood defence value of the channel is reduced, other plants
in the channel are shaded out, fish kills occur due to lack of oxygen,
and there is an increased risk of livestock drowning. Research is
being carried out into the growth characteristics of this plant,
and its control, at the Centre for Aquatic Plant Management in Berkshire.
A herbicide, 2,4- DAmine, was sprayed in 1998 to attempt to kill
the floating pennywort. However, whilst this treatment initially
reduced the area of coverage it did not totally remove the plant
and the plant soon grew back to completely cover the watercourse
and cause problems of localised flooding.
Existing Incentive Schemes [top]
government is required to protect wet grasslands of international
importance by the Ramsar Convention (the Convention on Wetlands
of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat 1971),
the EC Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) and the EC Habitats Directive
(92/43/EEC). These designations confer considerable protection upon
relevant sites but do not necessarily provide the means for ensuring
that such sites are managed in a way which optimises their importance
South Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) was established
in 1987. The overall aim of the scheme is to maintain and, where
possible enhance the traditional farmed landscape and associated
wildlife and historic resources of the South Downs by encouraging
beneficial farming practices.
farmers within the ESA boundary are eligible to enter into 10 year
management agreements with MAFF, with an optional break clause after
5 years. Annual payments vary depending on the management practices
adopted. In addition, payments are available for the provision of
new public access and for a range of capital works.
ESA scheme is based on a tier system. All agreement holders have
to adhere to basic environmental measures and have the option of
undertaking more onerous measures under other tiers. The payments
for each tier are based on a calculation of the income foregone
in following specific prescriptions, many of which can help conserve
and enhance the biodiversity of the habitats concerned. The tier
structure and prescriptions are reviewed regularly in order to provide
the most appropriate management, with supplements for the more demanding
regimes sometimes required.
only tier aimed specifically at floodplain grassland is Tier 2:
management of permanent grassland in the river valleys (L60/ha/pa).
However, farmers in the river valleys can also enter Tier 3B: reversion
of arable to permanent grassland (L250/ha/pa). As part of an agreed
Conservation Plan, 30% grants are available for the creation or
reinstatement of dykes and ditches and 80% grants for the construction
of water penning structures (bunds, sluices and other works).
ESA covers 51 000 ha, of which approximately 11 000 ha has been
entered into various management tiers. The area of floodplain grassland
under agreement in the ESA (up to and including 1998 agreements)
was approximately 430 ha.
Stewardship is a MAFF grant aid scheme which is available throughout
Sussex (primarily outside the areas covered by the South Downs ESA).
It offers payments to farmers and other land managers to conserve
and enhance the landscape and its associated wildlife and cultural
history, and to help people enjoy the countryside. The Scheme offers
10 year agreements with annual management payments and a wide range
of accompanying capital grants. Countryside Stewardship is a discretionary
scheme with a limited budget and individual applications compete
for the funding available. In order to ensure that the available
funds are spent to the greatest effect, Sussex has a target statement
aimed at identifying specific areas or types of land where key environmental
objectives can be best delivered.
current target areas most relevant in a floodplain context are the
river valleys of the Adur, Arun, Ouse, Western Rother and Cuckmere
and the High Weald. In these areas the restoration and enhancement
of floodplain grasslands and the reversion of arable fields back
to grassland are included as key objectives. The basic payment rates
for extensive grassland management are 85/ha/pa and for arable reversion
280/ha/pa. During the period 1991-1997 there were 19 agreements
in Sussex which encompass floodplain grassland.
Organic Aid Scheme is available throughout England to farmers who
wish to convert to organic production in accordance with the rules
of the UK Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS). Although
this scheme is not targeted specifically at UK Biodiversity Action
Plan priority species or habitats, there can be biodiversity gains
from organic farming. The organic standards require farmers not
only to farm in the virtual absence of pesticides but also to conserve
habitats and manage them sympathetically.
Habitat Scheme was set up by MAFF in England to meet the mandatory
requirement for long-term (20 year) set-aside. The only option of
the Scheme applicable to Sussex is the maintenance and development
of valuable wildlife habitats created under the Former 5 Year Set-aside
Scheme. This scheme is currently under review and is likely to be
merged with Countryside Stewardship in the near future.
Set-Aside Scheme requires farmers to set aside land on which they
are claiming under the Arable Area Payments Scheme. Within this
there are advisory management regimes for the restoration of damp
Wildlife Enhancement Scheme (WES) was set up in 1991 by English
Nature, and applies to the Pevensey Levels SSSI in Sussex. WES provides
a financial incentive for farmers in the SSSI site to carry out
sympathetic management. The objectives of the scheme are to conserve
and enhance the plant and animal communities of the ditches; to
maintain the attractiveness of the Levels for birds; and to encourage
the continuation or reinstatement of the traditional management
of the Levels. In order to achieve this, WES encourages ditch cleaning
and reprofiling in a sensitive manner; grazing at low stocking rates;
mowing only from July onwards; and no use of fertilisers. This represents
Tier 1 of the Scheme, for which there is a payment of 22 per acre.
If it is possible to maintain higher water levels in the ditches
and create areas of splash flooding then a payment of 35 per acre
are made. This is the Tier 2 option. Fixed cost payments are also
available for items such as sluices, scrapes, and ditch restoration.
Uptake for the scheme has been good, and there is now not much land
left on the Levels that is eligible for WES. The existing scheme
has been successful in protecting ditch wildlife but wetland bird
populations have continued to decline.
can be seen from this report, there is a plethora of schemes available
to farmers, and this can cause confusion. A coordinated and coherent
system of schemes is needed.
the full extent and quality of existing areas of floodplain grassland
further loss, fragmentation or deterioration by ensuring appropriate
protection and management that maintains and enhances all floodplain
a planned programme of floodplain grassland resource expansion
through the restoration of neglected or damaged sites and the
creation of new sites
suitable hydrological management to enable floodplain grassland
enhancement and expansion
promote and market traditional farming methods (such as beef production)
in order to maintain and enhance floodplain grassland areas
floodplain grassland area to support viable populations of important
floodplain grassland species
Targets and Costs [top]
there is no further loss of grazing marsh, and that the existing
priority areas of floodplain grassland are under appropriate management
by the year 2005. This could be done for existing SSSIs by reference
to Water Level Management Plans which should identify target areas
for management by providing appropriate advice to SNCI owners.
at least 5000 ha of lowland wet grassland to a favourable conservation
status by 2050. Achieve restoration of at least 1500 ha by 2010.
national costed Habitat Action Plan assigns costs of 87 per hectare
per year for management and enhancement of floodplain grassland
(HMSO, 1995). This figure assumes that the proportion of private
land under management schemes will increase from 26% in 1995 to
58% by 2010. The figure will not necessarily be the net cost to
the public sector as there could be savings in reduced agricultural
2000 ha of grazing marsh from cultivated land, in the vicinity
of existing high quality wetland, by 2050 (subject to review).
this has been costed at 87 per hectare per year by the UK Biodiversity
that the remaining areas of floodplain grassland in the major
river valleys are subject to management agreements under Countryside
Stewardship, WES or ESA schemes, as appropriate, by 2005.
involve the payments made per ha and for direct works, also employment
of project officers to promote the schemes.
Monitoring and Review [top]
Habitat Action Plan will be monitored by the Sussex Biodiversity
Partnership on an annual basis. This will include the monitoring
of the fulfilment of the actions carried out against the targets
set. A full review and updating of the plan will be carried out
at five-yearly intervals.
Frances 1998. Amberley Plant Survey.
F., Allen, S.D., Hodge, P.J. and Willing, M.J., A survey of the
Flora and Fauna and selected invertebrate groups of the ditches
of the lower Arun Valley. 1997 Arun Valley Countryside Project,
Arun District Council.
M. 1994. Agriculture and Environment: Opportunities in the UK under
the AgriEnvironment legislation. RSPB Conservation Review 8:10-18
L.A., Bibby, C.J., Clement, P., Elliott, G.D. & Porter, R.F.
(eds.) 1990. Red Data Birds in Britain. T. & A.D. Poyser, London
T.C. 1993. English Nature Report Number 49. The Distribution of
Lowland Wet Grassland in England. English Nature, Peterborough.
Nature Magazine, 1998. Number 38.
C., Street, L., Benstead, P., Cadbury, J., Hirons, G., Self, M.,
& Wallace, H. 1995. Water and sward management for nature conservation:
a case study of the RSPB s West Sedgemoor Reserve. RSPB Conservation
R. & Lonsdale, D. 1991. Habitat Conservation for Insects - A
Neglected Green Issue. Amateur Entomologists Society, Middlesex.
1995. Biodiversity: The UK Steering Group Report. Vol.2: Action
Plans. HMSO, London
I.J. and Willing, M.J. 1997. Survey of ditches in East Anglia and
South-East England for the freshwater snails Segmentina nitida and
Anisus vorticulus. English Nature Research Reports No 229. Peterborough:
B.I., 1998. Wildlife Enhancement Scheme: Review of scheme 1992-98
and scheme proposals for 1998 onwards. English Nature
C. 1998. The nature conservation importance of floodplains in England
and Wales -with particular reference to their flora. In: UK Floodplains.
Bailey, R.G., Jose, P.V., & Sherwood, B.R. Westbury Publishing,
C., Honnor, J. & Buckley, K. 1989. Nature conservation and the
management of drainage channels. Nature Conservancy Council, Peterborough.
C. & Mountford, 0. 1997. English Nature Freshwater Series No.
5: Water level requirements of wetland plants and animals. EN, Peterborough.
R.S.. 1998. Floodplains as amphibian habitat. In: UK Floodplains.
Bailey, R.G., Jose, P.V. & Sherwood, B.R. Westbury Publishing,
M. 1998. Distribution and conservation of breeding waders on floodplain
grasslands in the British Isles. In: UK Floodplains. Bailey, R.G.,
Jose, P.V. & Sherwood, B.R.Westbury Publishing, Otley. p.301
J.S. 1992. British Plant Communities. Vol.3. Grasslands and Montane
Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). Cambridge University
1993. Wet Grasslands - What Future? RSPB, Sandy
1 997a. Amberley Wildbrooks Nature Reserve Management Plan
1997b. RSPB Pulborough Brooks Reserve Summary of Management Plan
EN & ITE. 1997. The Wet Grassland Guide: Managing floodplain
grasslands for wildlife. RSPB, Sandy.
Wildlife Trust, 1995. Vision for the Wildlife of Sussex. SWT, Henfield
M.J. and Kileen, I.J. The Freshwater snail Anisus vorticulus in
ditches in Suffolk,
and West Sussex. English Nature Research Reports No. 287: EN
preparing this Plan the following groups were initially consulted:-
Butterfly Conservation, Country Landowners Association, East and
West Sussex County Councils, relevant individuals in all the local
councils, English Nature, Environment Agency, Farming and Rural
Conservation Agency, National Farmers Union, Farming and Wildlife
Advisory Group, High Weald Unit, RSPB, Sussex Amphibian and Reptile
Group, Sussex Downs Conservation Board, Sussex Wildlife Trust, and
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Conchological Society of Great
Britain and Ireland.