Sunday, 19 July 2009

Rivers in Sussex

The River Ouse (prounced like ooze) is a river in the counties of West and East Sussex in England

The river rises near Lower Beeding and runs eastwards into East Sussex, meandering narrowly.

Lower Beeding, Sandygate Lane

It slowly turns southward.

A lot of tributaries join it near the village of Isfield, and even more at Barcombe Mills, where it is used by Southern Water along with neighbouring Barcombe Reservoir, and there are many weirs and bridges.
Just north of this, the Anchor Inn is on the banks of the river, and canoes can be hired from here. Continuing on from Barcombe, the Ouse really starts to meander (leaving several ox-bow lakes) as it reaches Hamsey, where the meander has been cut short by a canal creating Hamsey Island, home to St. Peter's Church, which is situated on a mount.

The Town of Lewes
Then the river flows through the town of Lewes, where it has been converted considerably over history. Three bridges cross it at Lewes: Willey's Bridge (a small footbridge opened in 1965), the Phoenix Causeway (a larger road bridge named after the extinct Phoenix Ironworks), and Cliffe Bridge (which is much older). After Cliffe the Winterbourne stream empties into the Ouse and the main river is banked on the east by the Heart of Reeds. The Ouse courses southeast past Glynde, where the tributary of Glynde Reach gushes into it; and then passes Rodmell , Southease (where there is a locally famous bridge) and Piddinghoe; finally reaching Newhaven, where it splits industrial Denton Island from the mainland and provides an important harbour, and then empties itself into the English Channel, surrounded on either side by two long breakwater piers.
'Ouse' is a very common name for rivers in England (e.g. the Ouse in Yorkshire), stemming from a Celtic word for water.
South Downs near Devil's Dyke

The Ouse is one of the four rivers that cut through the South Downs. It is presumed that its valley was cut during a glacial period, since it forms the remnant of a much larger river system that once flowed onto the floor of what is now the English Channel. In the warmer interglacials the lower valley would have flooded; there are raised beaches 40 metres (Goodwood-Slindon) and 8 metres (Brighton-Norton) above present sea level. The offshore topography indicates that the current coastline was also the coastline before the final deglaciation, and therefore the mouth of the Ouse has long been at its present latitude.

Inundation and drainage
The behaviour of the Ouse and the conditions in its valley have been determined by its exit to the English Channel between Seaford and Newhaven.
Newhaven Fort, guns point out towards the English Channel
Eastwards longshore drift has built up and continuously replenished a shingle spit (shoal) at the mouth of the Ouse. In periods when the Ouse has been relatively unimpeded the river has drained the Lewes Levels. In periods when the spit has obstructed the mouth of the river, the river valley has been inundated.
At Domesday (1086), the Ouse valley was probably a tidal inlet with a string of settlements located at its margins. In later centuries the Ouse was draining the valley sufficiently well for some of the marshland to be reclaimed as highly prized meadow land. The outlet of the Ouse at Seaford provided a natural harbour behind the shingle bar.
However, by the 14th century the Ouse valley was regularly flooding in winter, and frequently the waters remained on the lower meadows through the summer. In 1422 a Commission of Sewers was appointed to restore the banks and drainage between Fletching and the coast, which may indicate that the Ouse was affected by the same storm that devastated the Netherlands in the St Elizabeth's flood of 1421. Drainage became so bad that 400 acres (1.6 km2) of the Archbishop of Canterbury's meadow at Southerham were converted into a permanent fishery (the Brodewater) in the mid-15th century, and by the 1530s the entire Lewes and Laughton Levels, 6,000 acres (24 km2), were reduced to marshland again.
Prior Crowham of Lewes Priory sailed to Flanders and returned with two drainage experts. In 1537 a water-rate was levied on all lands on the Levels to fund the cutting of a channel through the shingle bar at the mouth of the Ouse (below Castle Hill at Meeching) to allow the river to drain the Levels. This canalisation created access to a sheltered harbour, Newhaven, which succeeded Seaford as the port at the mouth of the Ouse.
The new channel drained the Levels and much of the valley floor was reclaimed for pasture. However, shingle continued to accumulate and so the mouth of the Ouse began to migrate eastwards again. In 1648 the Ouse was reported to be unfit either to drain the levels or for navigation. By the 18th century the valley was regularly inundated in winter and often flooded in summer.
River Ouse, Cliff Cut
This straightened tidal stretch of the River Ouse just south of Lewes is called Cliffe Cut. It was made when the Ouse was canalised in the late 1790s. The original course of the river meandered in the foreground.
Advice was sought from John Smeaton (1766) and William Jessop (1787) Under the Ouse Navigation Act (1790):
the Ouse was straightened at various points; new drainage dykes were dug; a western breakwater was constructed at Newhaven to arrest longshore drift and so cut off the supply of shingle to the spit.

Ouse Navigation
In 1787, William Jessop was asked to survey the river with a view to extending navigation right up to Slaugham. Three years later the Upper Ouse Navigation Act was passed, enabling construction upon the navigation to begin. However, the initial estimates of cost were soon exceeded, and work slowed. Eventually, about 1812, the canalisation of the Ouse was completed, and the river was navigable from Lewes up to Balcombe, West Sussex, the navigable part of the river terminating at Upper Ryelands Bridge. The navigation totalled 22 miles (35 km) in length, plus a 3/4 mile branch to Shortbridge, and featured 19 locks.
Trade along the Ouse Navigation consisted mostly of lime, chalk, manure, aggregates and coal. Whilst in 1801 there were 51 barges registered as trading on the river (21 of which worked the river above Lewes), the navigation was never a huge commercial success. During the 1840s, as railways proved to be a cheaper and faster method of transporting goods, attempts were made to attract more trade by reducing tolls, but this had little effect and by 1868 all trade above Lewes had ceased, although boats continued working on the Lower Ouse to Lewes right up to the 1950s.
Today, the remains of most of the old locks are still visible, although all are now slowly deteriorating. The Sussex Ouse Restoration Trust is promoting renovating the navigation.
Southease swing bridge was built in the 1880s, is the second bridge on the site and though the swing mechanism remains, it has not been opened since 1967.

The River Rother (originally named “Limen”), at 35 miles (56 km), is a river flowing through both East Sussex and Kent, England. Its source is near Rotherfield (East Sussex), and its mouth is on Rye Bay, part of the English Channel.

Rye Bay

Bodiam Castle

The river’s section below Bodiam Castle is navigable; following that are the Rother Levels (where the sea once penetrated); the Isle of Oxney lies to the north; and near Rye the Walland Marsh is at its eastern bank. The river is navigable by canoes and kayaks as far up as Etchingham. The River Rother passes by or near the villages of Etchingham, Robertsbridge, Bodiam, Northiam, and Wittersham.
Lympne (pronounced /lɪm/) village is situated on the once sea cliffs above the Romney Marsh in Kent. It lies approximately 11 km (7 miles) west of Folkestone, 2 miles west of Hythe and 17 km (11 miles) east of Ashford.
In Roman times Lympne was known as "Portus Lemanis", from which the modern name is derived. It lay at the end of the Roman road from Canterbury, known today as Stone Street. It was the location of a "Saxon Shore fort", and, according to the Roman "Notitia Dignitatum", it was garrisoned by a "numerus Turnacensium" from Tournai in northern Gaul. Its remains are situated at the bottom of the south-facing cliffs. In Anglo-Saxon times the fort was given the name "Stutfall", meaning "fold in which a stud, or herd, is kept".

The River Cuckmere rises near Heathfield in East Sussex, England on the southern slopes of the Weald. The name of the river probably comes from an Old English word meaning fast-flowing, since it descends over 200 ft (100 m) in its initial four miles (6.4 km)
The river has many tributaries at its upper end, the principal one being the River Bull; and its main channel begins at Hellingly.
After crossing the Low Weald area of farmland south, the Cuckmere breaks through the South Downs in its own valley, to reach the English Channel at Cuckmere Haven east of Seaford at the Seven Sisters.

The Seven Sister, White Chalk Cliffs

The lower part of its course is marked by meandering, which is a well-known feature of the area.

The Cuckmere Valley Nature Reserve is located here. The Cuckmere Valley civil parish takes its name from the river.
The course of the river was historically diverted to allow improved irrigation for agriculture in the area. The area is a major tourist attraction, and on the west side of the river, where the A259 crosses the river at Exceat is the popular Golden Galleon Public House.

Cuckmere Haven
A collaboration of the National Trust, Natural England, Environment Agency, East Sussex County Council and various other environmental and conservation groups has been set up, and is talking to local residents, businesses and visitors about how to manage the estuary in the future. Presently, a shingle beach and artificial river banks prevent seawater penetrating the uppermost areas of the Cuckmere Valley. However, with sea level rise and increasing costs of protection, together with growing evidence that the area would be more ecologically rich if allowed to return to its natural state, it is planned to stop the repair of this blockade, which will result in the periodic flooding of this highly popular area. It is estimated, however that the benefit in terms of ecological expansion, will in the long term, act to improve tourism

1 comment:

  1. Hey Bernard,
    The image of the tributaries of River Ouse on your blog caught my interest. It is of great relevance and I hope to seek your permission for use of that image in a publication. Could you pls drop me an email at so that I may provide more details on this issue? Hope to hear from you soon. Many thanks, Adeline