As can be seen in yesterday’s post, the historical widening and deepening of South Milton Stream, the main input of fresh water into the SSSI, has lowered the water table significantly in the eastern third of the reserve. In 2015 Vic Tucker, the reserve manager, proposed enlarging an existing watercourse on the opposite side of the reedbed to create an area of open water. Previous attempts to do this had failed due to difficulties of access and rapid recolonisation by Phragmites. After dialogue with Natural England a location on the southeast side of the reedbed was selected, which would offer unobstructed views of the new habitat, help to raise the water table and avoid damage to the existing reedbed.
Work has just begun to widen and deepen a length of this ditch, to produce an area of open fresh water of sufficient depth to prevent re-colonisation by Common reed (Phragmites australis). This is intended both to increase biodiversity in the area and to raise the water table. Natural England has generously contributed to the costs of excavation and the installation of a sluice to enable fine control of the water levels and thanks are due to Kevin Cox, the outgoing Devon Bird’s Chairman, for submitting the proposal documents. The detailed SML Ditch proposal 2017 and SML Ditch rationale 2017 documents can be viewed here.