Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)
EB6 Ditch management 24 points per 100 m

This option is intended for ditches forming field boundaries in their own right and aims to establish both a varied bank-side and aquatic vegetation, and an undisturbed wildlife habitat adjacent to the ditch. Eligible ditches must regularly contain standing or flowing water. They must contain vegetation typical of wet ditches, for example common reed, yellow flag, reed canary grass, water mint, fools watercress and marsh-marigold. You must be responsible for the management of both sides of the ditch. Ditches managed by third parties, such as internal drainage boards, are not eligible. Streams that are unmanaged (or occasionally managed) natural features are not eligible. Moorland grips are not eligible. Where the ditch runs alongside a hedge and you intend to apply ELS options to both, you must use option EB8, EB9 or EB10 (see below).

For this option, you must comply with the following:

  • You must not cultivate or apply fertilisers or pesticides to land within 2 m of the centre of the ditch. This rule also applies to all land within 1 m of the top of the ditch bank.
  • You may only cut the vegetation on your ditch banks in the period between 15 September and 28 February. In each such period, you may only cut the vegetation on up to half your length of ditch bank.
  • Where you are cutting vegetation growing on ditch banks, cut it in rotation so that the vegetation is not cut more than once every two years.
  • Where necessary to prevent flooding, up to 50 per cent of the vegetation in the bottom of the ditch may be cut every year between 15 September and 28 February.
  • You must clean ditches no more than once during your agreement. You must do so only in the period between 15 September and 31 January, and in any such period you must clean only up to half your length of ditches.
  • Only use mechanical means (including hand tools) to clean your ditches or trim vegetation on the ditch bank.
  • Any dredgings or spoil must be spread evenly across the adjacent field, at least 2 m from the centre of the ditch and 1 m from the top of the bank (to comply with cross compliance rules) and the bank-side vegetation re-established by natural regeneration. Wherever practicable, avoid disposing of dredgings or spoil on areas managed under Environmental Stewardship. If it is spread on land managed under an Environmental Stewardship option, you must make sure the management requirements for the option are still met.
  • Do not move or re-profile or increase the width or depth of the ditch.

Leaving one ditch bank uncut provides essential cover for species such as water voles

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