Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

01-06-2017: Balsam Bashing the May away

Pepper drooling to get stuck into bashing balsam
May was a month filled with Balsam bashes...

A local variation of balsam bashing at Knights Park – Kingston University mid May

Pulling up balsam in the rain at Knights Park Campus
... from individual sites and team doing bashes on sites up and down the catchment to our catchment wide joint Big Balsam Bash yesterday (31st of May).

We had a fantastic turn out with 25 volunteers from different organisations from the Hogsmill Catchment Partnership, as well as local volunteers who had seen our posters join us for the day ... THANK YOU :)

Polly and Tom clearing away the balsam on the ditch at Rushett Lane
Our aims for the Big Balsam Bash 2017, were to pull up as much balsam as possible to stop the invasive plant from seeding and spreading downstream to all of our sites.

We worked on two critical areas; the first was at Chessington which is the source of Himalayan balsam infestation on the Bonesgate stream, a tributary of the Hogsmill River.
Ellot, Conor and Stuart clearing one of the balsam stands
Here a team largely comprising the Lower Mole Partnership volunteers as well as South East Rivers Trust, Environment Trust, KUBAG and RBK removed all of the plants that we could find around Rushett Lane and Park Farm.
Baby balsam hiding under the nettles were a little harder to find on the day
We broke the back of the current crop of plants by lunch. We left the Lower Mole volunteers to continue the bash at this location, while we went to our second site of the day – Elmbridge Meadows.

Elmbridge meadows is located at or below the entry points for all of the tributaries in the Hogsmill so it’s the first site to get the bulk of all of the seeds form all of the upstream sites. Resulting in a very heavy infestation of balsam, not only on all of the banks of the river, but in a nearby scrap created to increase fresh water habitats in the park.
The narrow path in the balsam before we started pulling
This scrape was covered in balsam as far as the eye could see, we concentrated on removing as much of the balsam here to help minimise the balsam getting established in the woodlands around the river, a harder habitat to remove balsam from easily as the seed stock would be scattered throughout a much larger area.
Weaving our way through the nettle and balsam understorey
Making good progress
A quick tea break
We had a great time pulling out the balsam, managing to clear approximately 80% of the current growth. 
Creating a green carpet of pulled plants

Reaching the pond at the end of the scrap
It will take many many many repeat visits to clear Elmbridge of the current crop of balsam as well as yearly visits to reduce the seed stock.

The great thing about this site is that it’s easily accessible, if this is your local park, and you use it, why not add in pulling a few balsam plants to your walks in the park before they produce seed pods? – Just remember to have a pair of gloves with you as well as long sleeves to protect you from getting stung by nettles :)

If you walk in the area regularly, don't forget to make sure that seeds aren't caught in your clothing (and taken off site) if you ramble through the plants when the pods are present. These pods pop and throw seeds out to get easily caught in hoods, upturned jeans etc.
The end of a fun day at site 2
There have been some interesting developments at the Catchment Partnership level with some exciting news coming soon for a scheme being spearheaded by the South East Rivers Trust – if you are curious, keep a look out on their website/blogs for new initiatives that may be coming to the river soon.

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