Volunteers are playing a key role in the battle against a species that blights our rivers – Himalayan balsam.

Teams have spent the summer pulling out this dominating, invasive plant on many of our properties, including Pierrepont Farm in Surrey, Bere Marsh Farm in Dorset, and Lark Rise Farm in Cambridgeshire.

A highly collaborative approach is achieving great results in Cambridgeshire. The CRT has been working with the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire (WTBCN), Cambridge Conservation Volunteers, Cam Valley Forum, farmers, landowners and other partners to reduce the impact of all non-native species on the Bourn Brook.

Ruth Hawksley, Water for Wildlife Officer for WTBCN said: “I work in the Wider Countryside team for the Wildlife Trust, building relationships with landowners and working on projects outside of Wildlife Trust sites. For this project, we coordinate teams of volunteers who work their way along different parts of the brook during the summer, pulling Himalayan balsam and looking out for other invasive species such as signal crayfish and giant hogweed. If we spot the latter, it has to be cleared by a specialist contractor.

“There is less and less Himalayan balsam coming up every year, so our efforts seem to be paying off. We used to have to clear huge patches and now it is often a case of searching the riverbank to catch the odd one or two.
“It has also helped us to build good relationships with a lot of the landowners. This will hopefully mean the lines of communication are open, so we can share advice on how different forms of land management might affect the brook or collaborate on other projects.

“Conservation organisations, farmers and landowners need to work together like this because watercourses are connected and have many stakeholders. Everyone brings their own skills and resources. It’s been very positive.”

Published in The Lark magazine, November 2023

PICTURED TOP: CRT volunteers all set to tackle clearing Himalayan balsam at Lark Rise Farm © Katy Froud

How you can help

We can’t do it without you. If you want to help us protect local wildlife you can support the CRT in any number of ways, from joining as a CRT Friend to volunteering on one of our farms and attending our events. You can also sign-up to our monthly newsletter 'CRT News' for regular updates from our farms, straight to your inbox.

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