The past few months have seen the Boscastle to Morwenstow Ranger team plus volunteers getting stuck in with removing invasive plants.
High in the rankings of our “Most Wanted” list is a plant with a fearsome reputation: Himalayan balsam. Its beautiful pink flowers let it charm its way into being a popular garden species, but things never stay were you put them and it has escaped to the country (not the usual episode you’ll see on BBC One). The many thousands of seeds a single plant produces yearly, plus its liking for setting up shop in areas with a nice river-side view gives it a high potential to spread far and wide. Once a seed has been set, it will then out-compete smaller native plants while its shallow roots contribute to river bank erosion.
At the start of the season, the rangers and our volunteers were on our hands and knees along the Valency Valley near Boscastle, trying to find all the small plants hiding amongst the foliage. Later on, the plants grow into monsters, bursting up and towering above the plants (and people) around them.
We gently pull them out, taking care to make sure the roots come too; otherwise they just keep re-growing. The plants are then either ‘hung out to dry’, leaving it off the ground (otherwise it’ll just re-root and our hard work will be for nothing) or piled up and left to compost.
The pulling season was also a great time to see local wildlife; being among the vegetation allowed us to get up close and personal with various plants, wildflowers, fungi and animals. We’ve seen butterflies, dragonflies, demoiselles, moths, bees, beetles, tiny toads, birds, and even a deer. All in all, the experience as a whole, being out in the countryside experiencing nature is one that was not to be missed.
We’re extremely grateful to our dedicated volunteers who braved all weathers to hunt out and remove great numbers of balsam, clocking in a total of over 400 volunteer hours. We managed to cover a length of over 2.5 miles down the valley, with an area totalling over 30 hectares. As to the number of plants we pulled, that number remains a mystery, but I’m sure everyone who was present will agree with me when I say it was A LOT!
Full Time Volunteer Ranger on behalf of the Boscastle to Morwenstow team.