Employees from local businesses tackling invasive plant threat

Staff from Lombard on a Himalayan balsam pull 23 May 2018

This summer, staff members from Hampshire businesses have escaped their offices to enjoy the sunshine and make a difference to the local environment by donating their time to help the New Forest Non-Native Plants Project

Hosted by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, the Project is stopping the spread of invasive non-native plants and has welcomed volunteers from a wide range of companies and organisations to pull up Himalayan balsam along river banks in the New Forest area.

Introduced in the nineteenth century as a garden plant, Himalayan balsam has spread rapidly and invaded the countryside, particularly along river banks, where it can form dense colonies and out-compete our native wildlife. Its seed pods ‘explode’ quite dramatically when ripe, scattering the seeds over a wide area and, although it’s an annual plant, it can reach an astounding five metres in height by mid-summer. Luckily it has short roots and can be pulled up easily, so balsam-pulling can be very satisfying.

Himalayan balsam

© Lianne de Mello

Volunteers who have helped to control Himalayan balsam this summer include staff from HSBC, BT, SSE, Lombard, Oil Spill Response Ltd, Ridge & Partners LLP, BDO, Old Mutual, World Pay and Excelitas. Winchester University and Solent University staff members have also lent a hand.

Catherine Chatters, New Forest Non-Native Plants Officer, said ‘We are delighted to have had help from such a variety of businesses and organisations this summer. All the hard work and enthusiasm of the many people who’ve helped us has really made a difference, but there is still plenty more work to be done’.

Catherine and her colleague Jo Gore will be leading more volunteer work parties along the Cadnam River, the Lymington River and the Avon Water and would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to get involved.

The volunteer work parties are part of the New Forest ‘Our Past, Our Future’ Landscape Partnership Scheme, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. They will continue into the autumn and are a great opportunity to do something to improve your local environment in the company of like-minded people.

Get involved

If you have a bit of time to spend and enjoy being out in the fresh air, why not offer to help on a balsam pull? For a list of dates and locations of Himalayan balsam pulls organised by the New Forest Non-Native Plants Project this year, please contact Catherine Chatters at Catherine.Chatters@hiwwt.org.uk.