WALKERS have been astounded by a hiking hotspot which has been flooded for weeks.

The Cuckmere Valley flood plains, which attract more than 350,000 visitors a year, has seen large amounts of water build up as the River Cuckmere burst its banks.

The Environment Agency said it will no longer interfere with the site in order to restore it to a “tidal floodplain”.

Peacehaven resident Alan Jeffrey was surprised at the level of water when he visited the beauty spot on Wednesday.

“It should be renamed Cuckmere Lagoon,” said the 72-year-old.

“I went up the concrete path through the park and it really surprised me.

“Both sides of the river were flooded, I’ve never seen that before.

“I looked at the river flowing out to the sea and the mouth looked very narrow, not much was going out.”

Mr Jeffrey said the flooding had started much earlier than last year.

“I remember water building up in November or December last year,” he said.

“But it’s started already and it doesn’t usually go away until February.

“The more I walked up the valley, the more I was amazed by it.”

Mr Jeffrey hoped increased flooding at the site would bring more animals to the valley.

“In the longer term I think it will have great benefits for nature,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to people who will say it will bring more wildfowl which would be fantastic.

“I saw lots of people taking photographs, it’s beautiful now.

“But the canoe shop nearby has been flooded. It’s shame but I don’t know what we can do.”

A Environment Agency spokesman said it would continue to clear shingle in order to protect houses upstream.

“A flood and coastal erosion-risk strategy was produced for the Cuckmere Estuary following consultation with residents in 2009,” he said.

“We will continue to clear shingle accumulating in the river mouth if required.”