Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

26-01-13 : Rhodo Bash Brilliance!

Joining forces with the Environment Trust for Richmond Upon Thames once more, enthusiastic volunteers brilliantly bashed more Rhododendron ponticum at our Kingston Hill woodland this weekend.

No branch was too big for Amy!
Our penultimate rhodo bash was never going to be easy - the steeply sloping, boggy terrain gave us a hard day's graft to try and clear invasive rhododendron. Welly boots and hard hats were a must as volunteers got stuck in (almost literally in the ankle-deep mud!) and hacked their way through the dense and entwined rhododendron growth.

Clearing a path through this thick mud was one of the toughest challenges.

Volunteer John captured the density of the vegetation before we got stuck in.

The bushes in this woodland patch had been left unchecked for many years and some had reached heights of well over 10ft! Yet despite the enormity of the task ahead, a mighty team of 21 volunteers grappled admirably with the vegetation. Helping hands came from all sorts of backgrounds: KU staff and students from disciplines ranging from law to biomedical science, Environment Trust volunteers and girls from Marymount School. The local press even showed up to see what the story was!


Blessed with blue skies and sunshine, plus tasty break time treats, the ever-smiling team revealed the woodland floor for the first time in what must be decades! Not only that, but a vintage washing machine too!! 

The blue and white detergent powder still visible on the middle spindle just illustrates how household detergents frequently don't degrade when they reach our ecosystems.

Another discovery on the day was a honey bee wandering in the leaf litter - an escapee from our Kingston Hill beehives perhaps?!
We valiantly attempted to watch for birds as part of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch during our bash but our clearance work seemed to put them off, even from the woodland edge. A star sighting just days before - Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - was nowhere to be seen this time, despite the surrounding mixed woodland habitat suiting it down to the ground. We did, however, see the familiar Robin (Erithacus rubecula), Great tit (Parus major), Blue tit (Parus caeruleus) and Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) so all was not lost. The clearance work we have started will encourage greater diversity of plants and trees to grow in the woodland which will in turn attract a greater variety of birds and other wildlife in the future. Perhaps next year's birdwatch will record a broader array of species, we shall see!

Hefting heavy rhodo branches is better than a workout in the gym!
By 4pm our production line had ammassed an impressive pile of rhododendron cuttings to be chipped by our contractors. Light is now reaching the woodland floor here and the rhododendron's toxic leaf litter has been partly removed - a great contribution towards the University's Invasive Flora Management plan. 

The transformation is marvellous, but there is still more work to be done to completely clear this area of rhododendron. Why not join in the fun at our final bash to banish the rhodo from this woodland patch on Saturday 23 February? 

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