Motorway crash barriers helping to keep River Ouse sparkling clean

South East Water environmental officer Alex Stephens and farmer Bob Felton SUS-160329-094740001
South East Water environmental officer Alex Stephens and farmer Bob Felton SUS-160329-094740001

Recycled motorway crash barriers are helping keep the River Ouse cleaner – and tap water running crystal clear.

The barriers have been sunk into a farm track on a steep slope at Twyford Farm in Horsted Keynes to act as cross drains and trap soil and waste carried by rainwater before it washes in to one of the river’s tributaries below. Catching this waste means the water taken from the Ouse is cleaner and therefore requires less treatment before it is safe to drink.

The work is part of the Water and Farming Partnership Project, which brings together drinking water supplier South East Water, the Government’s environmental advisory body Natural England and the farmers whose land is near the River Ouse and the streams which feed it.

Simon Lohrey, South East Water’s surface water catchment management lead, said: “We know land management is a key factor in the quality of river water taken out for drinking water. By working with farmers we can improve the quality of this water and help with farm efficiency at the same time.

“The quality of the water in the River Ouse is generally good, but it can be improved further by a few simple and cost-effective measures. These include stopping artificial fertiliser, pesticides and soil washing from fields into the river in the first place. Removing these substances at the water treatment works is very costly and also costs farmers as they are losing valuable resources. We offer farmers and landowners practical and financial help to carry out small projects which can have a huge impact on water quality and saves them money too.”

Farmer Bob Felton, who with partner Liz Wallis tends Twyford Farm, signed up to the scheme when he took over the 230-acre estate 18 months ago.

As well as the ground-level gutters, Bob has replaced broken guttering on an old stableblock so rainwater is directed into a drain, rather than onto the ground, and improved a hardstanding to prevent rainwater run-off. He has also planted a hedgerow high on a sloping field which will slow the rate rainwater washes from the hill and the amount of sediment and nutrients it takes with it.

Bob said: “Farming is about stewardship of the whole natural environment, it’s not just about livestock or crops.

“We need to make sure we think about what we do and how it affects the wider picture – it is about partnership. The measures we have put in place are actually very simple, but we couldn’t have done it without the help of South East Water. We will all reap the benefits of the work now and so will future generations.”

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