waterlogged footpath

A new project is underway at West Horsley Place, which will change how and where water is held across the 380-acre estate. This project has been set up and managed by our Environment and Sustainability Manager, Yendle Barwise, and our Estate and Gardens Manager, Matt Link. It will build on ideas that Matt has had for a number of years, complemented by suggestions that Yendle has brought in, with financial support and expert advice from external partners.

leaky damThere are several surviving hydrological features of interest on the West Horsley Place estate. This includes a tiered series of medieval fishponds surrounded by an ancient semi-natural woodland, with associated embankments. However, generations of intensive farm management have resulted in a network of ditches that serve to encourage water away from the fields and ultimately northwards off the estate. Under increasingly divergent climatic conditions, this creates a feast-or-famine situation, exacerbating the risk of drought and fire in summer and contributing to off-site flooding in winter.

new pondTo address this, we have a long-term, estate-wide aim to ‘slow the flow’ by holding water in key areas without compromising access (e.g., via rights of way). Slowing the flow will involve ditch management work (e.g., installing leaky dams, or linking ditches with seasonal ponds) and the creation of new wetland areas. Such work in this small sub-catchment will increase the estate’s capacity for water retention and help to mitigate the risk of downstream flooding. It will create new and enhanced habitat, supporting biodiversity, and it will improve our resilience under projected climate change.

With support from the Surrey Hills National Landscape and Surrey County Council’s Flood & Climate Resilience team, the first phase of this project is now underway. We have been busy creating seasonal ‘peak flow’ ponds, improving drainage from footpaths into targeted areas, and installing leaky dams with coppiced material from the estate.