Dear all, this weekend is the start of the Himalayan Balsam season, hurrah!
I know this is one of those jobs that some love and some hate so we have another job or two available as well. We shall be working at Westfield and the time is right to clear the nettles around the meander route, so everyone gets the fun of Urtica dioica in one way or another. There is likely to be a bit of litter picking in the nearby meadow if we have lots of balsam refusers in the turnout; our local school enjoy visiting this remote site for parties from time to time. Empty bottles and cans are a problem for the sheep and wildlife.
For those new to balsam bashing, it is a non-native plant which can dominate the riverbanks and shade out native vegetation. Given a free rein it becomes the dominant vegetation on any damp soil; it is a short-lived annual plant which grows from seed to 3m tall in a summer, and when it dies down in winter leaves bare riverbanks highly susceptible to erosion. In summer it is good for bees, but so good that the bees fail to pollinate other plants effectively. We are part of a group of people working to reduce its impact on the Bourn Brook. The job involves getting into the brook (chest waders are provided) and pulling the plants out – the roots are very shallow – and hanging the plants up in branches etc. to dry it out and kill it before the seeds are ripe in August. In early June the plants are big enough to spot, although we will certainly miss many small ones as they germinate sporadically through the spring whenever it’s wet. The sooner we get the big ones out now, the less likely they are to flower before our next visit when we will get the second wave. It’s a great way to see the brook habitat from a different perspective.
We’ll meet at 9:30 Birds Farm for a coffee and to sort out the right size waders for everyone before setting off to the site about 9:45. I’m not sure what the catering plans are at the moment but will update later in the week