The majority of the Mad Marsh Run course takes place on the Pevensey Levels SSSI, and as such, we needed to gain permission from Natural England to hold the event. Natural England have worked positively with us to mitigate possible environmental damage, particularly to ditch ecology, and rare grassland species.
We routinely clean our ditches once every six years, on one side only, so wildlife still has existing habitant to live in. The crossing points at ditch jumps will be at these points that we ditch clean on the six-year ditch cleaning cycle, or at cattle drinking points.
Running shoes with spikes will not be permitted on the course to help protect the grassland. The majority of grass running will be on river banks and ditch banks as these parts of our fields do not contain rare plant species.
Mad Marsh Run events will be run between July and November, in order to minimise its environmental impact, so that running events are not held during the nesting season and held after plants have flowered and seeded.
Post-event environmental assessment will be made by us and Natural England in order to review the impact upon the Pevensey Levels, and how this can be mitigated for future events.
Income raised from the Mad Marsh Run will be used to control the new invasive species Floating Pennywort, a problem on the farm's internal ditches, in order to continue to provide the habitat for the protected Little Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail and the Fen Raft Spider.
We ask all participants and spectators at the event to respect the Pevensey Levels at all times.
Originally a tidal estuary, the Pevensey Levels today is a fresh water marsh that lies below high tide sea level. The soil is a rich fertile alluvial topsoil, with a very heavy impermeable blue clay subsoil. It is bordered to the north by the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; to the south west, by the South Downs National Park; and to the east, the English Channel. When taking part in the Mad Marsh Run, participants will get a real sense of what was once the sea, and the surrounding coastline. The vast, open, flat landscape with an incredible ditch system provides good farmland, and a rich environment for wildlife.
The Pevensey Levels is recognised today as one of the world’s most important ecological sites for its rich and rare flora and fauna that has evolved from the topography, for its history, and for the traditional livestock farming on the marsh. It has 'Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)' status due to the presence of the rare Fen Raft Spider; it is also an internationally important site, having RAMSAR status with its populations of rare water snails, such as the Little Whirlpool Ramshorn snail. The open marsh landscape provides large of areas of water for winter wading and wet grassland birds, such as snipe, lapwing, egrets, redshank and teal. Natural England is the government body that not only protects the Pevensey Levels today, monitoring its wildlife and ensuring its ecology as an important wetland site with permanent pasture is maintained, but also develops management plans for this wonderful part of Sussex wildlife to thrive in the future.
Originally a tidal sea inlet in Roman times that went as far west as the edge of Hailsham, the Pevensey Levels had islands that we now know today on the marsh as Horse Eye, Manxey and Chilley to name a few. The Levels was recorded in 772 AD when attempts to reclaim the marshland were made. Land on the marsh was cultivated during the Anglo-Saxon period, and salt harvesting became a commercial industry, with The Doomsday Book recording a hundred salt works on the Pevensey Marsh. The marsh as we know it today had almost all been reclaimed when The Great Flood of 1287 saw most of the marsh covered in water again. During the 14th century, the marsh was reclaimed again, as the land was amongst the most fertile in Sussex. Approximately 30,000 labourers hand-dug the Pevensey Levels ditch system that exists today. In 1402, the whole marsh flooded due to rising freshwater levels. This was alleviated by cutting a new water course that eventually became The Wallers Haven that today drains the marsh fresh water out to the English Channel at Normans Bay.
Farming on the Levels
The Pevensey Levels has been farmed for centuries. Its open landscape of permanent pasture has been predominantly used for traditional rearing of beef and sheep, with a few dairy herds, and grass grown for hay and silage. Parts of the very fertile marsh have been drained and cultivated in the past for growing crops, though most of this arable land has now reverted to permanent traditional pasture.
The Mad Marsh Run is held on Longleys Farm, an organic dairy farm with 80 cows. Award-winning farmers father and son Phil and Steve Hook, started to market their milk as unpasteurised milk in 2007, as Hook and Son, famously being taken to court by the Food Standards Agency in 2013 for selling raw milk in Selfridges, London. The farm was also documented in the award-winning film ‘The Moo Man,’ (2013), and featured in More 4’s documentary series ‘A Year On The Farm’ (2017).
The farm also produces pasteurised and unpasteurised milk, cream, butter and ghee, as well as organic grass-fed dairy beef and organic rose veal. It plans to increase its product range and hopefully in the future have its own farm shop and café!
Run the Mad Marsh Run and help its wildlife!
Not only will you have great fun attempting The Mad Marsh Run, but by taking part you will be helping the important conservation work on the Pevensey Levels too!
The biggest threat to our extremely rare Little Whirlpool Ramshorn snail, and Fen Raft Spider is an invasive species called Floating Pennywort. This fast-growing water plant quickly clogs up ditches, suffocating them of light, reducing water, changing oxygen levels and preventing air-breathing insects from reaching the water’s surface. It is a huge problem for the water courses on the Pevensey Levels. The Environment Agency are responsible for clearing only the main water courses on the marsh from Floating Pennywort. However, in the last couple of years, we have started to see this terrible plant in our own ditches, which will be a new cost to us farm to control. Income from the Mad Marsh Run by your participation, will help us to control this awful plant from our own ditches, and help us to continue to provide the habitat our important rare little friends so desperately need!
Love The Pevensey Levels!
The Pevensey Levels is very special. It is no wonder it is an internationally protected site and one of Natural England’s most important sites. Farmers, conservationists and those involved in some way with the Levels are passionate about them. We hope that by organising The Mad Marsh Run, more people will not only get to see and understand the Pevensey Levels but also become as passionate about the importance of the Pevensey Levels as we are!