Guide to maintaining a land drain system in the winter


The start and end of the year generally tend to be the wettest months but it’s also the ideal time to undertake some general maintenance of your land drains and watercourses to make sure they are working properly. Here are our top tips:

Check your ditches 

Ditches play a vital role on farms in managing the flow of excess rainwater. It is therefore essential that they’re regularly cleaned to prevent them from becoming built up with silt and tree debris. The best time to undertake this work though is in the autumn and winter months, as this will limit the impact on wildlife. You can clean them by either excavating the ditch or simply clearing debris and excess vegetation away as shown in the video below by Dave Jones from Hatton Bank Farm. To protect wildlife, it is recommended that dredging is only done as required rather than as an annual maintenance operation. To find out more about ditch maintenance, click here.

Check your culverts 

Culverts are used to provide safe passage over ditches into arable fields. The pipes that are used to allow the water to flow through the culverts are pivotal in maintaining water flow within the ditch systems. If a culvert becomes blocked, it can back up the ditch system and cause the surrounding arable land to become wet. It’s therefore important to make sure your culverts are performing correctly by removing any built-up debris. Another key thing to check is that the culvert is the right size. Sometimes after a ditch has been excavated, the culvert may no longer be big enough or maybe raised off the ground. If this is the case, it may need replacing.

Check your land drain outfalls

Land drainage pipe prevents fields from becoming waterlogged and improves the conditions of the soil by allowing excess water to flow through them to an outlet. Many of the land drainage systems used by farms today were installed over 30 years ago. Traditionally made from clay, they can fracture due to old age and can become blocked with silt debris as well as tree roots so it’s important to check they’re clear. The best time to do this is just after a storm when you can see if the water is running freely through them and out of your outfalls – click here to see what to look for. An example of a land drainage outfall flowing freely after a storm is also shown in the video below. Blocked land drainage can sometimes be cleared by simply using a jetter or rodder but if they’re too damaged, they may need to be replaced.

Check your headwalls

A headwall should be installed in the ditch or watercourse embankment wherever a land drainage outfall enters that watercourse. The headwall’s function is to protect the end of the drain outfall as well as protect the watercourse embankment from erosion. A headwall is designed in such a way that it is recessed into the embankment thereby creating a flush wall where the outfall enters the main flow, thereby limiting the possibility of floating debris starting to cause a blockage by becoming caught up on a protruding outfall pipe. It’s important to regularly check for damage to these and to make sure they’re not blocked with debris or silt as this can prevent water from flowing freely through them.

How can we help?

At Cotterill Civils, we supply a wide range of land drainage products, including land drainage pipetwinwall pipeculvert pipe and headwalls.

Our team of specialists can provide you with expert advice on the best product for your application. Call us today on 0121 351 3230.

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