Thanking volunteers for their help in the balsam battle

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust hosted an afternoon of tea and home-made cakes on 25 November to thank volunteers and to celebrate another successful season with the New Forest Non-Native Plants Project.

The event, held at Brockenhurst Village Hall, was attended by 35 people who have generously given their time to tackle the spread of the non-native plant called Himalayan balsam which has invaded river banks in the New Forest area.

Wildlife Trust officers Catherine Chatters and Jo Gore highlighted the huge amount of work that has been done by the 161 individual volunteers who have generously given over 2,322 hours of their time pulling up Himalayan balsam during 2019 with the New Forest Non-Native Plants Project.

Jo Gore, New Forest Non-Native Plants Officer, said ‘Our volunteers have worked very hard, often in extremely muddy conditions, to control the Himalayan balsam’.

The volunteer work parties have involved a wide range of people including youngsters from Copythorne and Testwood Explorer Scouts.  Staff from HSBC, The Phoenix Group, SSE, GE Aviation, BT, BDO and the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management participated in corporate work parties.  Members of the Southern Co-op Board also lent a hand.

The National Trust’s volunteers joined forces with local residents to tackle the balsam on the banks of the Cadnam River, whilst the Forestry Commission’s Voluntary Rangers helped to stop the spread of balsam growing along the Beaulieu River. The volunteers have also focussed on the Avon Water and the Lymington River and its tributaries the Passford Water and the Mill Lawn Brook.

Volunteer Lesley Hancock said “After several years of pulling Himalayan balsam it is so rewarding to return to areas that were once covered in it to find bluebells, stitchwort and foxgloves flowering in its place. With all the talk about mental health and keeping active, balsam pulling is good for us volunteers as well as helping our environment. Being out in the countryside, in the fresh air, clambering over tree trunks, crawling under brambles - who needs the gym? … and we get rid of the balsam!”

‘We are delighted by the help given by so many enthusiastic people and, together, we’re continuing to make a difference’ said Catherine Chatters, New Forest Non-Native Plants Officer.

Catherine and Jo will be leading more volunteer work parties to pull up Himalayan balsam during Summer 2020. If you would like to find out more about volunteering with the New Forest Non-Native Plants Project please e-mail Catherine.Chatters@hiwwt.org.uk or telephone 07770 923315.

The control of Himalayan balsam is one of a number of projects funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund through the New Forest ‘Our Past, Our Future’ Landscape Partnership Scheme.

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