Operation Watershed is getting to the root of a 100-year old flooding problem at a Worthing allotment affecting nearby homes.
Chesswood Farm allotments, in Pages Lane, have suffered for decades with flooding during winter.
A combination of river flooding (from the nearby Teville Stream), high tides, poor sub-soil, groundwater, and surface water flooding has prevented large areas of the site from being used.
The derelict plots then become a magnet for fly-tipping.
The issue affects about 50 neighbouring residential properties at risk from flooding.
Now, with help from West Sussex County Council’s Operation Watershed fund, allotment holders are fighting back.
A £7,682 grant has paid for willow coppices and orchards to be planted in the wasteland by allotment volunteers.
By planting these sorts of trees, the aim is to soak up the water and dry the land out.
It will help manage the flow of the River Teville , as it runs underground downstream from the nearby industrial estate, and protect the residential houses close-by.
Worthing Allotment Management’s Secretary, Paul Eustice, said: “We are creating a long run of coppice using willow, hazel, alder and chesnut, and three orchard areas.
“Willow is like blotting paper and it can thrive in boggy areas.
“We can use the coppiced trees to grow our stock and make hurdles for fencing. Other local groups can use the products for weaving classes and we can offer free cuttings to houses around the allotment as well.”
Paul explained flooding issues affecting the allotment were first recorded back in 1919.
He said: “The main problem is the sub soil is really weird. Water gets to a certain point and then it stops draining away.
“You cannot drain it off, there is nowhere for it to go. It just gathers.
“It has made a lot of the plots unusable.
“Two areas the size of football pitches got so wet that people end up giving up on them. They are full of thistles and weeds.
“You cannot allow that to happen because if people see an area turning into a wasteland it quickly becomes a dumping ground.
“That is why we will put bulbs on there, so it looks managed and changes people’s attitudes to the area.”
Paul said Worthing Allotments Management turned to Operation Watershed for help because it was quick and easy.
In return for the grant allotment volunteers will manage the project, supply labour and continue to maintain the site.
Paul said: “This needed doing and it needed doing now.
“We considered applying for National Lottery funding, but that is more complex process and we are looking at other schemes for this.
“Operation Watershed fitted the bill.”
County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, John O’Brien, said: “This is another example of how Operation Watershed can help a volunteer group who are motivated to deal with a flooding problem.
“We agree this scheme will protect nearby properties, improve the drainage here and prevent land being wasted.
“This will encourage the allotment community to work closer together on flooding issues and help protect homes and businesses close by.”
Operation Watershed funding to support community flooding projects are still available.