Saturday 20th July, Rydal saw volunteers descend for ‘Fight the Aliens’ Day, with huge numbers offering to lend a hand.
SCRT staff and volunteers and Friends of the Lake District, organised a day of pulling Himalayan Balsam (HB); a vigorous and fast growing invasive non-native species. A number of landowners, farmers and partners were also involved and supportive of the event, including; Lowther Estates, Rydal Estates, C&S Hodgson, Lake District National Park Authority and the National Trust.
A whopping 72 volunteers turned out on the day, including eight group leaders. Seven people operated strimmers, including contractors to help strim some of the larger patches, who agreed to act as volunteers. Ruth Kirk, landscape engagement officer with Friends of the Lake District, said: “The statistics from the day are pretty impressive – around 640,000 individual plants were pulled – although we would far rather there was no need for us to undertake this work in the first place.” For such a short amount of time, that is an amazing result!
Every plant pulled helps native wildflowers to grow and thrive, adding protection to our river banks. Yet, this is just one battle and there is still much more to do. Jayne Wilkinson, our catchment planning and monitoring officer explains that ‘rivers are particularly good transport systems for the seeds of HB and by controlling the plant in the upper reaches of a catchment we can stop or reduce its spread downstream’.
A follow up session will be held on the 21st August, to get rid of any remaining plants that were missed in the previous session. If you’re interested, follow the link: https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/Event/fight-the-aliensbig-balsam-bash-round-2
(We are aware that August is late for Himalayan Balsam control and that many of the flowers will be in seed. However, we will be avoiding areas of flowering plants to minimise any risk of spreading the seed further; these areas will be tackled during our programme of control next year. Since the first volunteer event, contractors and landowners have been continuing to support the cause by strimming and mowing some of the larger balsam patches. Therefore, the aim of the event on the 21st is to re-visit the areas targeted during the first ‘Fight the Aliens’ day on the 20th July and pull any ‘stragglers’ and re-growth before we have a much bigger problem on our hands next year.)