On a decidedly wet and seriously muddy Saturday morning, four intrepid Balsam bashers – two from the Monday Group and two regulars from a local Rotary Club – met at Dore and Totley Station for our annual assault on the alien species that attempt to infiltrate Ladies Spring Wood along the banks of the River Sheaf. A recce during the previous week had shown a smaller number of Himalayan Balsam plants than expected, at various stages of development, with some already well into flowering. Unfortunately, a small colony was also spotted below the weir, an area that had previously had been free from invaders.
On arrival at the riverbank, earlier observations were confirmed, and in places where whole groves of plants had been uprooted in previous years, there were only scattered specimens. After an hour and a half combing through the wetland alongside the river our total haul amounted to only 340 or so plants, including those at the new site, compared with the low thousands we had eliminated in some earlier years. Eight stems of Japanese Knotweed were also identified and removed.
The unusual weather pattern in the previous months had led to very dense growth of many local species, especially close to the river margin, and this may have inhibited the usual profuse growth of the Balsam. Alternatively, our efforts over the last two years, when around 850 and 2000 plants had been culled respectively, are beginning to reduce the threat that the Balsam once offered.
Thanks are due to the four volunteers who carried out this vital work to maintain the SSSI status for this ancient woodland under this year’s damp and slippery conditions.
Addendum: On Monday 21st August a further foray along the River Sheaf discovered a huge grove of Balsam, below the dam, that must have been overlooked previously with over 200 flourishing plants. Combing over the area previously covered also revealed an amount of new growth. In all, 439 additional plants were removed, more than doubling the initial number.