Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

23-02-13 : Rhodo bash

The final rhodo bash of the season was a great success this weekend. Flurries of snow, thick gloopy mud, an inquisitive fox and a bus stop all featured in our fun, physical fight against this invasive species at Kingston Hill.

Kavitha enjoys cutting this rhodo down to size!

This follow up to our last rhodo bash in January called for a thorough job. And volunteers rose to the challenge admirably. After instruction in safe tool use from the Environment Trust's Gerard, the team got stuck in to identifying rhodo remnants from last time.

View from the mud - volunteers wrestle with rhodo branches

Those with wellies made a beeline for the mud where the rhodo was still rampant, others ventured under the boughs of giant laurel at the other end of the site. Like rhododendron, laurel casts dense shade all year round - preventing growth on the woodland floor. So while we took out the rhodo, laurel got the same treatment.

This little holly is a welcome sight. Now the area is clear of rhododendron it will get more light and be able to thrive here. It's evergreen leaves will replace the shelter offered by the rhododendron, but it will provide food for the birds too in the form of berries.
Our tea break was particularly eventful as the tiny flakes of snow we'd started with suddenly turned into deluge, albeit very shortlived! As we tucked into fruitcake to replenish energy levels, a fox ventured near to see what had been happening in his territory. Unperturbed, he remained close until he realised the cake had all been eaten! He will surely benefit from the range of biodiversity our rhodo clearance will encourage. As well as small mammals, foxes love a juicy worm!

Spot the fox - he certainly spotted us (and our break time cake!)

Of course clearing an area which had been left to its own devices for what must be decades, sadly, revealed a lot of dumped rubbish. Volunteers gathered all they could to clean up this formerly unloved space. Among the usual crisp packets and fizzy drink bottles, some more remarkable discoveries stood out.

Anyone lost a phone?! 
The bus stop gang - volunteers gathered around the prize finding for the day - a vintage bus stop!

A good day's work: we finished by picking up as many rhododendron leaves and cuttings as possible to limit regrowth. Plainly visible now, the soil will contain a varied seed bank from which seedlings will germinate. We will have to be patient to wait and see what emerges!

A painstaking effort was made by all volunteers to pick up all rhodo leaves leaving a blank canvas for nature to work her magic!
This may have been the last rhodo-bash of the season, but it is not the last biodiversity event that's for sure! You can still get involved in invasive species removal by joining us for balsam bashing at the Middle Mill campus in May. Or if you fancy more litter picking, we shall be donning waders on 6 March to clear the Hogsmill river. There's something for everyone!

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