Hello Conservation Volunteers
A big thank you to all who came to our recent work morning, and a very warm welcome to the 7 volunteers from the Environment Agency who came to help, we hope to see you and your other colleagues again in future.
It was a bit of Groundhog Day with Himalayan balsam pulling and painting railings again on the agenda!
This was our third venture this summer into the Wet Woodland to pull as much balsam as we can before they go to seed and spread, not just in the Wet Woodland but washed away down the river to cultivate on the riverbanks further downstream.
With the Porter in full spate after the recent heavy rain (Forge Dam was full, with water flowing over the spillway) we couldn't cross the river as usual but had to go in via the boggy area at the back - quite a challenge through the tangle of trees and bushes and deep mud. There's (unfortunately) plenty of balsam to go at in there, the more you look the more you see. It does give volunteers the opportunity to have a good natter with each other as they go about their task of pulling the balsam out and draping it over the trees! This time we had taken loppers in with us to cut through to get to the hard-to-reach areas where the balsam was well protected by brambles and bushes.
Simon did an estimate of the number of balsam plants pulled out. Based on pulling 80 in 5 minutes per person, for the morning session that worked out about 20,000 plants pulled out by the volunteers. Using a conservative estimate of 10 seeds per plants that means roughly 200,000 seeds won't be spreading into the Wet Woodland in just that one session!
Unfortunately, two of the Environment Agency volunteers received wasp things. The wasps were protecting a large swathe of balsam and didn't take kindly to being disturbed. Planting a cane in nearby to mark the spot so we could avoid it probably wasn't the best idea in hindsight as it provoked the wasps to all come out! At least we have the what3words of the wasp nest for the next time we go in to avoid it https://w3w.co/giving.summer.towers
As if to prove the point about the balsam seeds washing down the river and cultivating on the bankside, whilst relaxing with a cup of coffee at the end of the morning we noticed a clump of balsam happily growing in full flower on the opposite bank near the cafe, so these have also been eradicated.
Elsewhere, Dave and his painting crew completed the undercoating of the railings and have put a topcoat on half of it. (I did see a small boy on being told not to touch the wet paint by his mother do exactly that and put his hand on the gloss paint much to the displeasure of his mother!)
Peter, Ben, and Katharine meanwhile loaded most the brash behind the store into Ranger Matt's van to be taken away for green recycling which has tidied up that area. They only stopped when Matt's van was full and they had also encountered a wasps nest in the brash!
Peter and Ben then went to cut up the tree which had fallen down into the river a little way downstream and moved another to the side of the river.
Footnote: On our previous work morning 13th July we were joined by Nicola and Julia on their annual volunteer day from IQVIA, based in Reading. A few of them live locally and have been volunteering with us this last couple of years. Hopefully some of their other colleagues who couldn't make this particular work morning will be joining us on a later session.
The next work morning is on Thursday 10th August 2023. An email will be sent out nearer the time with details.
A Selection of photos from the work morning
The Environment Agency volunteers
Balsam hung up to dry and die in the trees
Simon by a large pile wedged in a tree
Chris with a pile of balsam
Behind the store looking a little tidier after the brash has been removed
Tree in the river partly cut up
Tree removed from the river
Pictures from 13th July with Nicola and Julia from IQVIA
Julia with some balsam
Crossing the river