Drainage Ditch Digging in the Woods

By Andy the stuff doer

If one of the reasons for buying the woods was for me to get some extra exercise, it’s working!

Some time in the last month one of our Oaks has fallen. This is from a combination of wind, poor rooting, and the ground going to mush.

Root ball of fallen oak

Root of the fallen oak

The problem is Water logged ground. The ground is clay with a layer of soil and leaf mould. The water seeping out of the hillside gathers in a boggy area. This should be drained off by a series of ditches. Over time these have been blocked up and now the bog is spreading.

I don’t want to lose anymore trees so it was time to accelerate my ditch digging and clearing. This is where the exercise comes in. The ground is too wet support a mini digger and apart from that there are no rides (clear tracks) to get to the heart of the woods. So I’ve spent a few hours every-time we go up, Digging.

Drainage ditch blocked by fallen tree

Ditch cleared under fallen tree

The first ditch, I had already started work on.  The picture shows the most extreme type of ditch blockage. A tree had fallen across, eventually sticks and leaves catching under it and then back up the whole ditch.  For a ” quick” solution I dug under the tree.

clearing woodland drainage by hand

25m of ditch cleared by hand

I then had to clear about 25m back from the blockage. All with just a shovel and spade. The stuff I’ve dug out is saturated leaf mould, I’m wondering if it will make good compost. I’ve eventually got it dug down to the clay layer but it does need widening. The rest of this stretch, 150 m, needs some attention as well.

This section feeds in to the bog. With it clear the extra flow might have exacerbated the problem of the bog expanding.  The next bit was to contain the bog/ marsh with two new ditches.

small ditch to contain boggy area

Small ditch to contain boggy area

This small ditch and another at the other side of the bog cuts through the layer of leaf mould. stopping the leaf mould farther down from becoming drenched.

The bog eventually drains, forming a small stream or brook.  I dug up from the stream following the course of the original ditch to meet the new ditches.  This digging took me almost 3 feet down through the leaf-mould and some clay to a layer of stones.  I’m wondering if this layer of stones was the original stream bed?

That phase is now complete, the bog is contained.  Last time up, we started clearing the stream of blockages caused my fallen branches and sticks, then tried clearing some of the silt and leaves that are getting washed down.

My couple of assistants had a fine time.

Kids after helping with stream clearing

Rule three of the woods, getting mucky is compulsary

There’s plenty more that needs clearing and I’ll be chipping away at it as time goes by. THE EXERCISE WILL DO ME GOOD!

 It will be interesting monitor what happens as weather turns wetter.

2 Responses to “Drainage Ditch Digging in the Woods”

  1. Boggy woodland, I have some adjacent to me and hopefully I will acquire it in the not too distant future it’s had no attention in at least 50-70 years has more silver birch than a Norwegian forest and the few broadleaved trees are not progressing well.

    First job is to get a decent access into the area not a simple task. The clear the ‘ditches’ there are ‘runs’ but not proper ditches the water has cut it’s own channels over the years so it will be a case of linking them together providing bridges at a few key points to enable walking around the wood all 1.2ha of it.

    There is a boundary ditch linking into the original land drainage ditches and I’ll hope to drain the wood into that after a good clearance, then hopefully I wont’ be as troubled by mosquitoes as we are at present.

    How are things in your wood now?

    Still boggy or drier and more pleasant?

  2. Apologies Stuart, you comment get lost in forest of spam I get.
    Hope you managed to get the woodland, have fun. The ditches are ready for another clearout now but nowhere as bad as they where, many of the previousely boggy patches are still reasonably solid. So well worth the time spent. I’ve got some bridges to build now and hopefuly will be starting some thining, extraction and processing this year.
    Many years on and we still loving it.

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