Annual Balsam Bash – Saturday 29 June

This year’s expedition to tackle the invasive species threatening the banks of the River Sheaf as it flows through Ladies Spring Wood took place on Saturday 29th June. A team of four met at Dore and Totley Station, and one other joined us from the direction of Beauchief Golf Course. We were fortunate to have a fine day with mainly dry conditions underfoot.

A surprise awaited us as we approached the first area where the Himalayan Balsam plants are found. It was clear that another group, judging by the many hundred plants that had been attacked, had already demolished huge swathes of the Balsam. They had used a different approach from ours, which is to uproot and expose the Balsam plant, and had slashed through the stems below the level of flowering. This seems to us to be a less effective technique, as plants were re-sprouting leaves from nodes on the still-rooted stem, though we shall have to check later in the year, to see whether flowering stems can develop.

There were still many plants that had been overlooked. The three who stayed on the woodland side of the river uprooted about 750 plants; and the two welly-wearers, who crossed to the other side, estimated that they had each uprooted about 600 plants. They also reported that there were still many plants left, and another cull would be needed.

As in previous years, about 10 small patches of Japanese knotweed were also seen and pulled up, but there was also a much larger plant (about half a metre in height and spread) than we had ever found before. This was left in situ, as it should be treated professionally.

It is not possible to compare this year’s growth with observations and action from previous years, but it does seem that the unusual weather earlier in the year has had little effect in reducing the prolific growth of these invasive species.

Thanks to everyone who joined in this year.


Extra: Two of the Monday Group returned to the railway side of the River later in the week and estimated that they had pulled a further 1,200 balsam and around 10 knotweed plants between them. Even so, there were still quite a lot of balsam plants left, which means another visit will be needed.