Why do we do it?
In 1839 Victorian plant hunters looking for plants such as camellias and rhododendrons, found a plant with beautiful pink flowers and exploding seed pods … and thus Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) was introduced to the UK.
An invasive non-native plant, it is now found all over the UK but especially on riverbanks and hence, probably why, it has arrived in our village!
Balsam grows happily in low light levels and has a small shallow root system. It shades out native plants, competing for light, nutrients, pollinators and space, with the exception of nettles, unfortunately! It will, over time, impoverish habitats by killing off other native plants and increasing riverside erosion.
How do we control it?
So, what are we doing to control this menace – albeit a very pretty flowering menace?
We have just completed our second year of a parish council initiative, ‘Balsam Bashing’. We don’t literally bash it, we pull the plant out, roots and all. It usually pulls out quite easily but, just occasionally, you do have a bit of a wrestle!
I find it quite addictive, other volunteers have said it’s therapeutic. One thing is for sure, you can definitely ditch the gym on a bashing day with the added benefit of fresh air and hopefully a little sunshine.
We were so lucky with the weather this year. A couple of steamy hot days and a couple of very warm days but thankfully no rain! Timed well as this last week we have had thunder, lightning and Floridian type downpours!
When will it be gone from our village?
How long is a piece of string! The seeds can lay dormant for at least 2 years and probably longer, and new seeds can be brought in when the river is in flood. Annual bashing, at present, is key to eradicating it. With this in mind (and the number of volunteers) we have been focusing in two areas.
Our present sites are:
- The riverside walk from Acaster Lane towards Bishopthorpe (up to and including the Tansy field).
- The riverside walk from the slipway at Mill Lane towards and including the Ings.
I’m pleased to say we definitely saw a reduced amount of balsam, particularly in the Tansy field. Going forward as we see a fall in the amount of balsam we can start to move to new areas.
There is still so much to clear and areas we haven’t reached yet. It would be wonderful to increase our volunteer numbers for next year.
A very big thank you goes to all our wonderful volunteers. This year 20 volunteers donated 112 hours over 9 days through June and early July (last year’s statistics, 16 volunteers, 53 hours over 4 days). Huge thanks to:
Andrew, Catrina, Chris, Craig , David, Deborah, Diane, Fiona, Heather, Jackie, Jenny, Jill B, Jill H, Jim, Jon, Ken , Lesley, Linda, Maureen , Mick, Pamela, Sheila, Suzanne, Tin, Tina, Tracey, Val.
Maybe next year, you too can spare a little time and join our team of bashers – just get in touch, or watch out for the notices nearer the time. This year our bashing days were Friday and Saturday but if volunteers require different days I can arrange the best days to suit everyone. Please come along and join in I’m sure you will find it is addictive!
Finally, and I know lots of people do this, if you are out walking and spot this ‘weed’ anywhere please pull it out, break the stem and lay it on the ground. Every plant pulled, prior to seeding, stops potentially 800 further plants growing. So satisfying for you and amazing for our native plants.
I am still spotting new growth so will continue to pull wherever I can and would encourage everyone to do the same.
Jane Redfearn on 07962 258115