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Day of the balsam bash at riverbank

Published date: 04 August 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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AN INVASION of huge, aggressive plants was thwarted by a team of green-fingered volunteers at the River Dee.

It may sound like a scene from John Wyndham’s classic novel, but the weeds in this case were Himalayan balsam rather than man-eating Triffids.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust and the council’s countryside ranger Amanda Pritchard teamed up with staff from Celgene Limited as part of a community action day at the river at Farndon.

A day-long bout of ‘balsam bashing’ resulted in a 70-metre stretch being cleared of the pesky plants.

Robyn Moseley, from Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Go with The Flow project, said: “Rivers are vital highways for wildlife within our landscape, so days like this, helping to relieve the stranglehold of plants like Himalayan balsam, are crucial in the battle against non-native species.”

The plant was first introduced in the UK as ornamental in 1839, but is now aggressively establishing itself on riverbanks and waterways, crowding out native bankside plants.

Balsam grows two to three metres in just a few months and each plant can produce up to 800 seeds.

Once uprooted, the balsam is crushed and trampled to prevent it re-rooting and then piled up away from the river and left to rot. 

Mr Moseley added: “Around 60 per cent of our wildlife is now in decline and along with climate change, non-native species present one of the biggest challenges in front of us and have the potential to undo years of fantastic work that has seen the health of our rivers improve to the benefit of otters, water voles and salmon, amongst other wildlife.

“The volunteers from Celgene Limited worked extremely hard during the day and made a huge difference to the riverbank at Farndon.”

Farndon councillor Howard Greenwood said: “The group cleared away a 70-metre section of the River Dee and really made a difference. The aggressive balsam plant establishes itself very quickly and crowds out native plants.

“Well done to everyone who took part and Cheshire Wildlife Trust and our Countryside Rangers are on the lookout for a business or community group who would like to carry out this same work again next year.”

Steve Whitney, on behalf of the northern team from Celgene Limited, said: “I’d very much like to thank Robyn and Amanda for organising the Balsam Bashing Day for us.

“It was hard work but very enjoyable and great to work with Cheshire Wildlife Trust and Cheshire West and Chester Council on such a worthwhile project to clear the invasive Himalayan balsam from Cheshire’s watercourses.

“We thoroughly enjoyed the day and would highly recommend it if you want to contribute to conserving our natural heritage and keeping fit at the same time!”

n If companies or groups are interested in undertaking ‘balsam bashing’ next year they should contact www.cheshirewildlife

trust.org.uk or telephone the rangers office on 0151 327 5145.

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