CUCKMERE VALLEY, EXCEAT
The Cuckmere River flows through the chalk landscape of the South Downs of East Sussex from the north of Heathfield to Exceat on the East Sussex coast. The near Ox-bow lake, is a classic example of the type and the familiar scene is a favorite with walkers and geography teachers.
At its estuary it meanders several times through the Cuckmere Valley Nature Reserve, reaching the sea at Cuckmere Haven between the chalk cliffs of Seaford Head and the famous Seven Sisters. For as long as I can remember children have used the location to learn to paddle canoes. I was one of them.
Cuckmere Haven's meandering river © photo NJK
The course of the river was historically diverted to allow improved irrigation for agriculture in the area. The beautiful meanders of the Cuckmere river that this created, are known internationally and has become a major tourist attraction. At the north end of the valley, adjacent to Exceat Bridge, is the popular Golden Galleon Public House.
A collaboration of the Environment Agency, DEFRA and various other environmental and conservation groups plans to stop protecting the area from flooding. Presently, an artificial pebble blockade prevents seawater penetrating the uppermost areas of the Cuckmere Valley. However, with sea level rise and increasing costs of repairs, together with growing evidence that the area would be more ecologically rich, if allowed to return to its natural state; the Environment Agency in collaboration with English Nature plan to stop the repair of this blockade, which will result in the eventual flooding of this highly popular area.
The agencies involved estimate that the benefit in terms of ecological expansion, will in the long term, act to improve tourism. Unfortunately, I can see no evidence of this from any government department, to support the change from exquisite river scene, to mud-flats. What is worse, is that if the agencies get their way, the changes will be irreversible. Gone forever that lovely river. This was first proposed in 2003.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS 2006
It appears the Environment Agency is still working with English Nature to create wetland habitats for wildlife, while ignoring other economic and environmental issues. In other areas EA have been pumping water to flood areas now drier than normal due to climate change. In my opinion this is laudable provided only the situation is temporary - perhaps to alleviate some short term man made condition, such as a diversion.
Unfortunately, that is not the case here. Climate change is likely to escalate the problem and if unchecked could cause the extinction of many wetland species in the UK. Climate change is of course long term and with our present apathetic approach to curbing greenhouse gases - unstoppable. The very act of pumping water, uses energy which of course creates more carbon dioxide gas.
Locals want to preserve the attraction for many good reasons. However, we have here a delicate situation where both arguments should be weighed up. We should not forget that vast tracts of land in Holland are reclaimed from the sea, upon which the Dutch rely for farming, factories and accommodation.
Norman Baker and Nigel Waterson
The Environment Agency (EA) claims that global warming and rise in sea levels means that the existing regime in the Cuckmere is no longer ‘sustainable’. There is however, no evidence of this.
Local opinion is that there should be no hurry to address sea level rise in the Draconian and destructive way EA propose. A planning applications was made to raise the river banks by only 300 mm - one foot - to give roughly 50 years for mature thought as to the long term ‘geological time’ solution. The proposer of this latest scheme, Nigel Newton, suggest this will allow a more informed decision to be made, where, experts will know more about global warming and geostatic tilt. The decision will then be more informed. You must admit this seems logical. In fact the application was passed first by Wealden District Council, then a few weeks later by Lewes District Council unanimously (July 06).
Local MPs Nigel Waterson and Norman Baker (pictured above) recognised the future of this special landscape was of considerable concern to people across Sussex and beyond, which arguments ought to be tested, to look at the technical arguments for and against such proposals. We agree wholeheartedly that this is a sensible course of action and await the outcome, if any, should the application receive further attention. We're sure the locals would like to thank their MPs for taking an active interest in the discourse.
The locals argue there are many more factors to consider and they are ignored at the Agency’s peril – local opinion, tourist economy, erosion, human rights and other legal issues, to include proper use of public finance, etc. They want a number of questions to be put to EA by all interested parties particularly the involved Councils: Wealden District Council and Lewes District Council. The wisdom of this project at this juncture with the limited information available and upon which far reaching and most probably damaging decisions as proposed be EA and EN, could be made, should be questioned. Not least of the concerns raised; is this project is a good use of public money.
There are a host of other matters to be considered such as rights of way and of course Human Rights. So, it could be human rights versus animal rights. Of course the animals on the land are presumably happy, or they wouldn't be there. Humans have somewhat less of a choice, when it comes to nesting.
Undoubtedly, the local MPs and Councillors will become involved, to include (in alphabetical order): Norman Baker, Nigel Waterson and the local member Brian West. If you have any views on this subject, we would like to hear from you.
Global warming and climate change are hot political topics. With so much evidence all around us all pointing to the same thing, it's hard to ignore the issue. The latest personality to come out of the 'global warming' closet, as of 24 May 2006, is David Attenborough.
SEAFORD NEWS - 25 April 2003
CUCKMERE PLAN WILL NEED THUMBS UP
THE CONTROVERSIAL scheme to flood the Cuckmere Valley WILL need planning permission
Following a storm of public protests, the Environment Agency has announced it will put a planning application before the district council. The row over turning the beauty spot into mudflats has been running for many months.
My first canoe trip was on the Cuckmere
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CUCKMERE VALLEY - EXCEAT
School outing (Tunbridge Wells) © photo NJK
A heartwarming adventure: Pirate whalers V Conservationists,
with an environmental message.
For release as an e-book in 2013 with hopes for a film in 2015 TBA
(graphic design: Martin House)
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