Invasive plant cleared from Grantham riverbank by volunteers

Fiona McKenna (Lincs Rivers Trust), Chris Hallam, Rona Hallam and Cristina Pool
Fiona McKenna (Lincs Rivers Trust), Chris Hallam, Rona Hallam and Cristina Pool
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A group of hard-working volunteers spent a day clearing an invasive plant from the banks of the River Witham near Harrowby Mill in Queen Elizabeth Park on Friday.

A plant known as Himalayan Balsam has been growing along the bank for several years, threatening the natural eco-system of the river.

It took 10 members of the Grantham Rivercare team nearly two hours to remove all the plants, under the direction of Fiona McKenna from Lincolnshire Rivers Trust, who was there to advise and coordinate the exercise.

John Knowles, from the Rivercare team, said: “Fortunately the roots are shallow and easily removed and these were broken up and stacked into piles. The final task was to stamp on the plants, which is commonly known as Balsam Bashing.”

It is believed the tall plant, which has attractive pink trumpet shaped flowers, was first imported in to this country as a garden plant in the early 19th century.

It has taken well to England’s climatic conditions and flourishes along river banks spreading solely by seeds, which are small and easily carried by wind and water.

The plant out competes native species and can result in widespread devastation of all other vegetation and can impede water flow at times of high rainfall.

Stamping on the plant prevents it from re-seeding.

Grantham Rivercare is one of 40 Rivercare groups in the East Midlands and East Anglia which are administered by Keep Britain Tidy and sponsored by Anglian Water.

The River Witham is home to important animals of interest such as kingfisher and white clawed crayfish - a protected species.

Rivercare’s next event will be a clean up on August 15 starting from Bridge End Road at 10am, and new volunteers are welcome.