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Terminology query

Posts: 281
Location: North East Scotland
goat forest garden trees
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Perhaps some of you can clear up my confusion. I understand (at least I think I do) what a swale on contour is and what it is supposed to do. However, there has recently been some discussion about off contour swales. How is this any different to a standard drainage ditch as it will be moving the water away from the area? Surely once it is off contour it is no longer a swale but a ditch? Please enlighten me as to where my reasoning is failing me as it is niggling away at my brain and in the books that I have I can't find enough information on swales to find out where I am figuring this out wrong.
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