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Aliens in the Undergrowth

Posted: Friday 11th July 2014 by RiverSearch

Aliens in the Undergrowth

Controlling Himalayan Balsam on the River Mole.

On Tuesday the 8 July I joined Caroline Cardew Smith on the river Mole in Leatherhead for a day of Himalayan Balsam pulling as part of Surrey Wildlife Trusts Invasive Species Week.

Caroline is a local resident and cares deeply about the river in the area. Along with Alan Thornhill she has been working to tidy up this stretch of river by collecting litter and pulling out as much Himalayan Balsam as possible. However as this is such a huge task they needed some help - in the form of SWT's RiverSearch volunteers - who showed up in force to help.

Other volunteers from the local area also came to lend a hand,  as well as the kind members of British Canoeing, who tackled the Himalayan Balsam from the water where we couldn’t reach.

Along this stretch can be Small Teasel and Greater Dodder, both of which are becoming rarer as Himalayan Balsam takes over. Almost immediately we came across good examples of both, so volunteers knew what not to remove.

All in all 15 of us got stuck into the task, and apart from a shower in the morning the weather was warm and sunny. The morning session focussed on the river side path between Thorncroft and town bridge whilst the afternoon session was spent clearing the footpath between Town bridge and the railway bridge.

As the piles show we managed to make a serious dent in the Himalayan Balsam population, and the canoeists proved to be our secret weapon by attacking the Himalayan Balsam from the river itself, clearing areas that can’t be reached from the bank.

There is still a huge amount to do here in Leatherhead as the Himalayan Balsam has a strong foothold on the islands along the stretch and are still acting as a seed source. Caroline hopes to work with private land owners to get on top of this problem but we made a good dent in this year’s population.

Find out more about invasive species

Glen Skelton

SWT RiverSearch Coordinator

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