RP11: Swales

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the swales item.

How much will be paid

£5.95 per square metre.

Where to use this item

Available for Mid Tier and Higher Tier

Only in areas targeted for the reduction of water pollution from agriculture

Where this item cannot be used

  • to collect dirty water, effluents, or slurries
  • on historic or archaeological features or areas of existing wildlife interest identified on the Farm Environment Record (FER), the Environmental Information Map or the HEFER
  • where it will restrict the movement of migratory fish or eels
  • without relevant advice or consents from the Environment Agency (EA), or Local Planning Authority, or Internal Drainage Board

How this item will benefit the environment

A swale (channel) will collect surface runoff water or lightly contaminated water from farmyards or tracks. The collected water is conveyed to a watercourse or stored to infiltrate into the ground.

This item will help to reduce runoff and risk of soil erosion and water pollution. Swales can also slow water flows during heavy rainfall and reduce downstream flooding.


  • either follow the requirements set out in the Feasibility Study or CSF design plan (Water-Holding Feature Management Plan)
  • or construct the swale as follows:

    • construct a channel along a contour or on a slope gradient of no more than 2 degrees
    • mark the layout of the swale on the ground
    • excavate the swale bed to a depth of 750mm
    • stockpile the topsoil separately, to use on the bed and side slopes of the swale
    • construct the side slopes with a gradient of no more than 1 in 3
    • excavate a further 150 to 250mm and place the topsoil on the bed
    • establish a dense grass sward on the bed and sides of the swale

Do not:

  • place any excavated spoil on historic or archaeological features or areas of wildlife value identified on the FER, the Environmental Information Map or the HEFER

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • any consents or permissions connected with the work
  • receipted invoices, or bank statements where a receipted invoice is unavailable
  • please see the record keeping and inspection requirements as set out in the Mid Tier manual for more detail

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them with the claim:

  • photographs of the completed work

Before applying, applicants must seek advice from the Environment Agency, Local Planning Authority and where relevant the Internal Drainage Board to check if consent is required to carry out the planned work. Applicants will have to send the following with their application:

  • a copy of any advice or consent received from the EA, Local Planning Authority and (where relevant) the Internal Drainage Board
  • photographs of the existing site
  • water holding feature Management plan, Feasibility or Implementation Plan(s) if required

This item can be used on the same area as the following options and items:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this item

The following section gives advice on carrying out this item successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this item.

Use this item with other measures

This item should be used with other farm measures to reduce surface runoff and water pollution. Good soil management will encourage the filtration of surface water and minimise runoff.

Use check dams or silt barriers

Capital items such as check dams or silt filtration barriers can be used in swales to help slow water flow and encourage infiltration.

How to prepare a seed mixture

To establish the sward, for best results sow a seed mixture at a seed rate of 25g per square metre. The mixture should be a multi-species grass mix, such as creeping red fescue (70%), smooth meadow-grass (20%) and creeping bent (10%).

Further information

The management of water on the land can be improved by using Rural Sustainable Drainage Systems.

Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) operates in parts of the country where there are water quality issues linked to farming. The scheme provides farmers with free advice and training. See guidance for further information on CSF support.

See the Mid Tier manual or Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 10 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated for 2017 applications.
  2. Information updated for applications in 2016
  3. First published.