Bring back drain ditches

FREAK weather, climate change, changing weather patterns – call the weather conditions what you will. I recall deep snow, frosts and skating, flooding, hot summers, swimming in the river until past 10 at night. I also recall heavy rain and heavy thunderst

FREAK weather, climate change, changing weather patterns - call the weather conditions what you will. I recall deep snow, frosts and skating, flooding, hot summers, swimming in the river until past 10 at night. I also recall heavy rain and heavy thunderstorms, and localised flooding, roads running like rivers. So what has changed? What has changed is the lack of common sense from the public and the way councils now operate.

Before 1950, drains drained into ditches, which eventually joined up with the river. Everything was reasonably maintained by the hedge-trimmer/ditcher and the roadman with his barrow, containing broom, shovel and drain rods - all now a thing of the past, replaced by a rubbish-picker carrying nippers, who struggles to collect cigarette ends.

Roads are now swept by the intermittent mechanical sweeper. As it goes along the kerb, dirt is brushed into the drains, most of which are drain pots - something like a small water butt that overflows, and ditches are becoming non-existent apart from a few that are afforded watercourse status and are maintained by the district or county councils, internal drainage board or the Environment Agency.

Drain cleaning is contracted once or twice a year. The gully-cleaner vehicle driver empties the drain pots. If clean, a dot is painted by the side of the drain. If blocked, the grid is marked with a cross and remains blocked until a member of the public persistently complains, and weeds grow in it.

I was out recently, both as a parish councillor and as a friend and neighbour, helping clear drains to stop properties in Victoria Terrace from flooding. It is ironic that Hemingford Road was included in the £8million environmental flood scheme, yet a number of properties almost flooded because of the incompetence of workmen and checkers.

Recently, a new road safety improvement cycle/footpath was installed by Cambridgeshire County Council by removing the grass verge. Some of the surplus soil was left in the ditch, covering the outfall of the road drains and resulting in the road flooding. It was made worse by cars creating high sprays and wash. Six of us with spade and drain rods could not have got wetter under a waterfall.

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How many ditches are maintained properly? Very few. Part of the problem is caused by the public dumping rubbish. The rest is neglect. But by whom? The law is confusing.

If you have a ditch in front of your property, you are a riparian owner and responsible for maintenance. If your ditch has been filled in and piped, I am told you are expected to keep the pipe clean.

I recall all ditches being kept clean as a priority. Now a lot are slowly merging into the grass verge, being filled every year by hedge-trimmings from flail-cutting, while others are so hidden that no person or machine can clean them.

Perhaps it is time to return to commonsense maintenance, reinstate ditches, and clean culverts and banks. Let the old network of drains and ditches be restored.

PEGGY SEAMARK, Victoria Terrace, Hemingford Grey

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