Out with Blashford’s brilliant volunteers this morning, today’s task, hunting down Himalayan balsam. There were once huge drifts of it along the Dockens Water, now much reduced and apart from a few spots, actually difficult to find. There is something very satisfying about heading into a large clump and pulling it out and the vast bulk of this has been done by volunteers, not just at Blashford but all across the New Forest and along the Avon Valley. The New Forest Invasive Non-Native Plants Project and its Avon Valley counterpart lead for HIWWT by, Catherine Chatters and Jo Gore respectively, have been dealing with this and several other invasive plants, mostly along the streams or in ponds. Water plants easily escape garden ponds, either in flood events or as throw outs when they grow too vigorously and many have become a serious problem, out competing native specie sand even blocking waterways. It is often quite easy to find people prepared to tackle large patches of plants like balsam, but the really tricky bit is getting the last few plants, lots of ground to cover and few plants to find.
With plants that grow along streams and rivers it is important to start in the headwaters and work down as the seeds are often carried by water, so will go downstream but not up. Many produce large amounts of seed so it is important to get them before the go to seed and to try to get every last plant.
Looking for balsam involves walking down the river on both banks as far as the winter flood level looking for seedlings. The Dockens Water is shallow enough for someone to walk in the river to get the plants in out of the way places on the river bank, so I spent the morning in waders going down the river. One advantage is getting a different view of things and along the way I found an old kingfisher nest hole.
The green at the entrance shows the higher nutrients here where the droppings tend to accumulate.
The moth traps had a few new species for the year, my favourite was a small elephant hawk-moth.
Lots of work to do out on the reserve, the change in the weather has resulted in a spurt of growth, with brambles and nettles shooting up and out all along the paths, the heavy rain will now cause a lot of them to drop, lots of cutting to do. Having eight kilometres of paths is great until they all need trimming at once!