Balsam Bashing!

Posted on: 30th May 2019

We chose Wednesday 29th May, being both London Rivers Week and Half-Term at lots of the local schools, as the perfect day to renew our efforts from last summer, to eradiacte the highly invasive plant Himalayan Balsam from the site.

A fantastic turn-out of 22 volunteers showed up to help with the job (including a great group of local kids enjoying school holidays).

Everyone kitted up in wellies & waders, and after a quick introduction to help identify what we were targetting we all jumped in the stream and waded along hunting out as much of the balsam as we could find (and collecting any litter as we went).

It is a really fun task, being in the stream, scouring for your next victim, giving it a strong, gentle pull until it pops out of the ground, followed by a fabulous crack as you snap the stem.

Each Himalayan Balsam plant can produce approximately 800 seeds, and is able to project them upto 7 meters. Given this, if left unmanaged, it can take over areas extremely quickly, and as the seeds can spread through rivers and streams can spread to other sites very easily.
What is worse is that it can also lead to significant bank errosion due to having much shallower and less substantial root systems than the plants it takes over from.

While we were all busy hunting one of our volunteers was paid a visit by a curious female Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly, and it even stuck around long enough for us to grab a couple of quick photos.

The volunteers scoured the site from end to end, and hopefully managed to find most, if not all of the culprit. We will be continuing to target anything we may have missed over the summer, as it grows larger.

Fantasic supportive local Cafe Rosa helped make sure that all our volunteers were well nourished when we took a break, by providing us with loads of delicious soup and warm baguettes. Thanks again Rosa.

Once we had finished refuelling, and despite the weather closing in (and some of us getting a bit wet), we finished the day by splitting into a few different groups, with some volunteers finishing scouring the last bit of the stream for balsam, while others cleared some trees & branches which were partially blocking the water flow, and clearing some of the vegetation around the wildlife pond where we planted load of new tree & hedge saplings last year.

Thanks to all the volunteers who turn up to help out for such a fun and productive day.

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