This picture shows a stand of Himalayan Balsam taken on a section of bank which looked impossible to tackle but which is now almost clear of this nuisance. It happened over time but a real difference was made. Last year a new section was started and monitored, returning to it this summer it was found to have much reduced Balsam growth, with those stragglers pulled and destroyed it has a chance of being clear next year.
Every section we can clear reduces the risk of erosion next winter.
Just what is the problem with Himalayan Balsam?
Aside from the obvious issues of access to and from the river this plant causes problems for the fish themselves.
This is a non-native plant, introduced to this country by gardeners, but which has since gone wild and overtaken our river banks. The issue is that the thick canopies of foliage prevent the growth of better rooted plants which bind the soil together. When the Balsam dies back the river bank is susceptible to erosion with little or no protection from other plant roots.
The erosion causes many problems including siltation of the river bed, which in turns is problematic for the gravel beds which form the spawning grounds for Trout and Salmon. With these fish under severe pressure they need all the help they can get and clean gravel to form the Reds is essential. That’s where we come in.
How can we beat this menace?
Well, it takes a little effort but it can be done and if we can attack it BEFORE it seeds the task becomes much easier.
We have previously requested that every angler should try to find 5 to 10 minutes on each visit to the river to pull a few plants, try to clear a small area. Every little helps. Pull the plants by the roots, snap the stems and pile the roots and plants in an area where they can decompose. It’s great if everyone does a little but we can do more.
The problem becomes the remaining seeds which the plants spread very effectively.
We have seen that a patch once cleared, if followed up the following season can be fully cleared. If anglers could choose a patch, be it the size of a towel, a room or a garden and attack it we can clear worthwhile areas, protect the river bank and improve the spawning success of fish by reducing siltation.
Choose a patch.
Pull the plants, snap the stems and pile them to decay.
Return to that same patch next year, if it’s been well cleared, before the plants seed it will be much clearer.
Choose a new patch.