Catherine Chatters runs the New Forest Non-Native Plants Project which aims to control the spread of invasive non-native plants, particularly along rivers and in wetland habitats. The award was given for Catherine’s services to biosecurity – in this case, the control of invasive species to protect native wildlife.
The project was set up in 2009, and, with the help and support of volunteers, landowners and contractors, has helped to control areas of Himalayan balsam, American skunk cabbage, giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and parrot’s feather, among other species. Removing these invasive plants supports native wildlife and habitats which can be damaged by vigorous invasive species. The work parties have been very successful. Some sites were dominated by Himalayan balsam, but since volunteers removed the invasive plant, carpets of bluebells and other native woodland flowers grow in its place. The project also raises local awareness of non-native plants and the problems they can cause.
On receiving the award Catherine Chatters said:
“I feel very honoured to have been awarded the BEM for my work with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s New Forest Non-Native Plants Project. However, the success of this project is a result of the hard work, enthusiasm and co-operation of many other people including our wonderful volunteers, landowners, professional contractors, my colleagues at the Trust and staff from a wide range of organisations. I would therefore like the award to be regarded as recognition of everyone's help and support for the Project.”
One of the project’s regular volunteers, Patsy Baverstock, commented:
“I became involved in the project in 2016. Working with Catherine has been sheer pleasure. She is so appreciative of everything the volunteers do, always taking time to send emails thanking them. It is so rewarding now to return to sites that were covered in balsam and to see that native plants have returned - bluebells, stitchwort, foxgloves to name a few. To be working in the outdoors, doing something beneficial for our meadows, with such a wonderful leader, what more could we ask for? I look forward to helping Catherine with the project as long as it continues, and I am delighted that all her efforts have been rewarded with this well-deserved honour.”
Volunteer Graham Chillcott added:
“Having moved into the National Park when we retired, we wanted to help preserve the amazing and precious environment we found ourselves in. So, we went along to a New Forest volunteer event a little over three years ago, where we met Catherine. We enjoyed it so much, we’ve been helping her Himalayan balsam pulling ever since.”
Sara Cadbury owns a section of the Lymington River where the project has worked to control invasive plants. She said:
The meadows along the banks of the Lymington River at Bridge Farm were becoming seriously invaded by Himalayan balsam. If it had not been for the amazing efforts of Catherine Chatters, her colleague Jo Gore, and their team of Trust volunteers (especially Brian Matthews who never missed a day of pulling balsam), the problem on this farm would have become completely out of hand! I hugely grateful to them all for their extremely hard work, often in hot, difficult conditions.”
The New Forest Non-Native Plants Project is a partnership project hosted by the Trust and funded by the Environment Agency, The New Forest Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, Forestry England, the New Forest National Park Authority, the Test & Itchen Catchment Partnership, the New Forest Trust, Natural England and Lymington & Pennington Town Council.