Management of a watercourse (drainage ditch)

shinytopshinytop Forumite
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We have moved and inherited a watercourse aka a drainage ditch.  It’s 70-80m long and our boundary is at/slightly beyond its far bank. It’s a slope of about 10%.  Apparently in times of heavy rain water does flow but I think mostly it’s dry.  It’s been neglected and is populated with mostly ivy, brambles and nettles as well as having a lot of soil, stones and garden waste.  It’s also largely surrounded by trees.  I’d like to look after it and make it a bit of a feature but not sure where to start. I want to encourage a bit of diversity but don’t want it to be too cultivated or make it a lot of work to maintain.  Vegetation-wise I was thinking of starting by blitzing it with the brushcutter and digging at least some of what’s there out, and/or maybe do some selective weedkilling.  That’s about as much as I have thought about it so suggestions welcome.  :)


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  • sherambersheramber Forumite
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    Look at what grows beside streams - gorse, broom, primroses, snowdrops. march marigolds , astilbies, primulas, hostas.
    Do   a Google search for' streamside planting' for ideas
  • Barny1979Barny1979 Forumite
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    As the water course helps to prevent flooding elsewhere, it might be useful to ask the Local Highway Authority what they would recommend in terms of improving the water course.
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  • DavesnaveDavesnave Forumite
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    If you are weed killing, then as it's a watercourse you're pretty much restricted to using glyphosate though careful painting of bramble with brushwood killer in dry periods would probably be OK. Remember that weedkiller translocates from the leaves, so if you brush cut first, you'll reduce the uptake. I'd get a backpack sprayer for that sort of area and use it carefully & selectively.For Ivy, cutting and pulling is faster and often more effective than spraying.
    If there are many trees shading the site, you'll be more restricted in what you can grow. I have a stream that dries up in summer which is too shaded to grow plants like irises, but varieties of ferns do well and perennial plants like geranium phaeum and geranium macrorrhizum give colour and don't look unnatural. They follow the primroses and snowdrops. You'll have to experiment and see what you can get away with. I find purple loosetrife borderline but most people can grow it easily....too easily sometimes!
    Don't be in too much of a hurry. Weeds you don't want will re-grow, but eventually you'll get down to once or twice a year sessions of removal/painting with glyphosate, because by then spraying will be out. People will come along soon and tll you how great nettles etc are for wildlife; well, so are other plants!  For example, geranium phaeum is a great food for greenfinches which have been under threat in my area in recent years, due to disease.
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  • shinytopshinytop Forumite
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    Davesnave said:
    If you are weed killing, then as it's a watercourse you're pretty much restricted to using glyphosate though careful painting of bramble with brushwood killer in dry periods would probably be OK. Remember that weedkiller translocates from the leaves, so if you brush cut first, you'll reduce the uptake. I'd get a backpack sprayer for that sort of area and use it carefully & selectively.For Ivy, cutting and pulling is faster and often more effective than spraying.
    If there are many trees shading the site, you'll be more restricted in what you can grow. I have a stream that dries up in summer which is too shaded to grow plants like irises, but varieties of ferns do well and perennial plants like geranium phaeum and geranium macrorrhizum give colour and don't look unnatural. They follow the primroses and snowdrops. You'll have to experiment and see what you can get away with. I find purple loosetrife borderline but most people can grow it easily....too easily sometimes!
    Don't be in too much of a hurry. Weeds you don't want will re-grow, but eventually you'll get down to once or twice a year sessions of removal/painting with glyphosate, because by then spraying will be out. People will come along soon and tll you how great nettles etc are for wildlife; well, so are other plants!  For example, geranium phaeum is a great food for greenfinches which have been under threat in my area in recent years, due to disease.
    Thanks for this.  Funnily enough I just ordered a backpack sprayer.  Ivy is everywhere in the plot.  Ground, trees, shrubs, although thankfully not the house.  Some trees have more ivy than tree and some of it is 4-5 inches thick.  Fortunately it's soft and easy to cut/pull.  I can't go too mad with the chainsaw though because we're in a conservation area. 
  • ApodemusApodemus Forumite
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    With a 10% fall and 80m length, could you perhaps put in a couple of small dams to create riffles that would hold water for longer into the dry spells?  That might allow you to plant some bog plants for added interest.
  • shinytopshinytop Forumite
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    Apodemus said:
    With a 10% fall and 80m length, could you perhaps put in a couple of small dams to create riffles that would hold water for longer into the dry spells?  That might allow you to plant some bog plants for added interest.
    Not sure I'd be allowed to do this if it's a water authority watercourse.  It discharges into a drain on the road at the bottom so I assume it is.
  • edited 23 June 2020 at 8:36AM
    DavesnaveDavesnave Forumite
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    edited 23 June 2020 at 8:36AM
    shinytop said:
    Apodemus said:
    With a 10% fall and 80m length, could you perhaps put in a couple of small dams to create riffles that would hold water for longer into the dry spells?  That might allow you to plant some bog plants for added interest.
    Not sure I'd be allowed to do this if it's a water authority watercourse.  It discharges into a drain on the road at the bottom so I assume it is.
    You probably could, as it's in the interests of flood prevention to slow the speed of peak flows, but I doubt it would work. I have several natural little dams in my stream+ a waterfall of 4',  but they drain down pretty quickly.
    PS. I have a battery chain saw, so no one knows what I'm up to with it! ;)



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  • silverwhistlesilverwhistle Forumite
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    Building some dams would certainly appeal to my inner little kid..:-)  Go on, I bet the idea will nag you now!
  • twopennytwopenny Forumite
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    It might be worth going to look at some roadside drainage ditches or ones in villages that are part stream, see what's growing there. You'd need to be quick because wildflower season is less now .
    It can be very pretty and low maintenance that way as the plants self seed.
    Also worth looking for ideas/images on the net because you won't be the first to tackle this.

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  • ApodemusApodemus Forumite
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    twopenny said:
    It might be worth going to look at some roadside drainage ditches or ones in villages that are part stream, see what's growing there. You'd need to be quick because wildflower season is less now...
    ...but wildflower seed-collecting season is just starting!
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