Uckfield Case Study: Catchment Overview

The catchment area is approximately 605 km2 of which 7% is urban and the remainder either farmed or open countryside.

The catchment is dominated by the South Downs chalk block to the south which forms distinctive chalk cliffs at the sea. The scarp face of the South Downs overlooks the Low Weald, a broad, low-lying vale. The upper catchment is characterised by the sandstone ridges and valleys of the High Weald.

The River Ouse rises in the High Weald where river channels are steep and incised. The middle reaches flow through the gently undulating countryside of the Low Weald. The River Uck has a steeper channel slope than the River Ouse at its headwaters. At Lewes the River Ouse flows through a narrow gap in the Chalk and flows down the flat river valley to the sea at Newhaven.

The watercourses in the catchment have been heavily modified by human influence over time. The River Uck and its tributaries upstream of Uckfield have suffered severe bed erosion in the past 50 years. This is likely to have resulted from historic straightening and dredging practices.

As the geology changes in the lower catchment to more permeable Greensands and highly permeable Chalk, the river flow is not so reliant on rainfall as baseflows are increased by water from the chalk aquifer.

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