Going with the flow scoops countryside award

An innovative flood management scheme across the River Ouse catchment is among six Lewes district projects to win awards from the countryside charity, CPRE Sussex. 

Sussex Flow Initiative (SFI) is a partnership between Sussex Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and the Environment Agency with funding and support from Lewes District Council. 

SFI works with landowners and local people to reduce flood risk within the River Ouse catchment area using natural defences such as trees, hedgerows and leaky dams to slow and store the water before it reaches settlements downstream. 

The project was a silver winner at the CPRE’s first ever virtual Sussex Countryside Awards event last week to recognise schemes that help to enhance and protect the countryside and encourage engagement with the natural world. 

Councillor Matthew Bird, Cabinet member for Sustainability, said: “Sussex Flow Initiative is an inspirational project that has proved a resounding success, with the planting of more than 2,800 trees and shrubs and creation of nearly 150 natural leaky dams last year. 

“This has allowed for a massive amount of water to be stored in the landscape, reducing the risk of flooding near homes, and also providing habitat for wading birds and amphibians. 

“Another great positive is that this initiative has increased people’s connection with nature with local schools getting involved too.” 

Sam Buckland, Natural Flood Management Officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust, said, “Sussex Flow Initiative is hugely honoured to be recognised for its Natural Flood Management work across the Ouse Catchment, restoring and working with natural processes to reduce flood risk through slowing and storing water in the landscape. 

“Receiving the CPRE’s Silver Award is a testament to fantastic partnership working with landowners, communities and multiple organisations, and the impact the project it having for both people and wildlife. 

“This year, 2020, has been a record breaking year at both ends of the spectrum, in February we saw record-breaking rainfall and river flows, to a prolonged period of dry weather just a couple of months later. 

“The hard work and passion of everyone involved in making a more climate resilient landscape through the work of the Sussex Flow Initiative is incredibly humbling to be part of.”

SFI was among six enterprises and community groups to be honoured as silver winners at the awards held last Wednesday (Oct 14) on Zoom.  

The others were: 

·           – Railway Land Wildlife Trust, based in Lewes, was praised for its Schools Outreach Project, which ran for six months, creating a series of sessions to explore wildlife within school grounds. 

·          – Cradle Hill Primary School in Seaford was congratulated for its hard work to inspire a new generation of conservationists 

·          – Spithurst Hub is a co-working space which cuts out the commute and provides a sustainable working environment for dozens of local people, purpose built on the site of disused farm buildings near Barcombe.  

·          – The Secret Campsite in Barcombe has created a tranquil holiday ‘escape’ where families can connect with the natural environment 

·          –  Hope Springs Chairs chairmaking course, based in the Lewes area, helps people connect with nature through chairmaking courses set in ancient woodland 

Cllr Bird added: “I am delighted that so many Lewes district projects were recognised for their hard work in enabling people to value nature and respond to the climate crisis. It is all the more amazing given current challenges brought about by the pandemic. Congratulations to all of them.” 

The awards ceremony began with a welcome from CPRE Sussex Chair, Professor Dan Osborn who handed over to the competition judges, Lady Egremont, Dr Geoffrey Mead, Margaret Moore and Dr Tony Whitbread who made the virtual presentations.

The picture shows work at the Ouse river.