Category Archives: WEG

Non Native Invasive Species (NNIS)

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) may look quite attractive initially, but it is in fact a non-native invasive species (NNIS) causing a major weed problem.

Himalayan balsam - an invasive plant with pink bell shaped flowers
Credit: Amy Lewis. Copyright © Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, The Kiln, Waterside, Mather Road, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG24 1WT. Registered Charity Number 207238. 

Non-native invasive species cost millions of pounds each year to control. Their negative effect on our native wildlife and habitats is of deep concern to conservation groups.

Introduced to the UK in the 19th Century as an ornamental plant, the spread of Himalayan balsam to the wider environment has negatively affected rivers, floodplains, connected ditches and waterbodies.  The plant disperses its seeds very widely and very efficiently, with each plant producing up to 2500 seeds that are released and catapulted to distances of up to seven metres! The seeds are then widely spread through rivers and floodings, meaning the plants eventually colonise and take over entire river banks and connected wetlands.

Because Himalayan balsam grows extremely rapidly, it out-competes the native plant species growing nearby. This is problematic: if other plant species are not able to survive, the biodiversity of the environment decreases immensely. It is important for a natural ecosystem to have a high level of biodiversity with many different species so that it is stable and more resilient.

The plant grows especially quickly on riverbanks, and the River Blythe is no exception. Part of our work during Blythe Alive! involves using biological and mechanical control methods to clear the area of balsam so that other plant species are able to thrive and bring back the river’s biodiverse and healthy ecosystem environment.

Biological control of Himalayan Balsam

Working alongside CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International), Tame Valley Wetlands have been trialling a rust fungus as a method of biocontrol to target Himalayan balsam. Biocontrol refers to when a living organism is used to control a pest or weed, and has been successful in many other circumstances.

Making sure biocontrol methods are successful requires lots of trialling and testing, which is even more important in this situation because the rust fungus must to grow specifically on the particular plant species we are trying to get rid of. It is essential to make sure the fungus survives over the cold winter; if it did not, it would not make a useful long-term biocontrol method.

Mechanical control of Himalayan Balsam

We have been using mechanical control methods alongside our biocontrol efforts to tackle the Himalayan balsam affecting the River Blythe.

Mechanical control is an alternative to biocontrol. Such methods involve physically removing the invasive balsam plants from the area. Whilst mechanical control is considered a more immediate way to remove an invasive species, it requires a lot of ongoing manual labour from workers and volunteer groups which can take a lot of time. On the other hand, mechanical control is a reliable method of removing an invasive species.

Training Events

We have been running various training events and workshops as part of the Blythe Alive! project, to engage and involve local people in the importance of the River Blythe by demonstrating the ecological value it both provides and has the potential to provide.

There have been workshops on riparian plant identification, freshwater invertebrate identification and the importance of river habitats.

We plan to run a second round of training events in 2021. Check our social media pages and Events page to book tickets nearer to the time.

Gravel input into the River Blythe

Part of the Blythe Alive! project involves restoring clean gravels within the River Blythe to reduce sedimentation and provide fish spawning sites.

So far we have deposited gravels into a section of the river at Temple Balsall, and plan to address three more sites throughout the project.

Gravel input into the River Blythe at Temple Balsall

The introduction of clean gravels into the river will provide significant environmental benefits. The gravels will work alongside other anticipated improvements to the river to improve the bed structure, flow variation and habitat diversity. They will mean that rate of sedimentation within the river will be reduced, improving light levels and reducing turbidity, which will improve the conditions for submerged and marginal plants for which the River Blythe is a habitat.

Gravel introduction will also create new fish spawning sites. Fish such as salmon and trout use gravel beds in the river to build nests in which to deposit their eggs. The water flowing through the gravels carries oxygen to the eggs, which is essential for their survival. The gravels also act as habitats for invertebrates, which are good food sources for the fish.

Once input into the river at specific sites, the gravel will gradually move and settle into the river beds.

Hedgerow planting

As part of ‘Blythe Alive’, a project to improve the River Blythe SSSI and its environment, we are planting native riparian trees and hedgerows at various sites near to the River Blythe.

One of the benefits of hedgerows is their importance in acting as habitats for small animals such as birds and invertebrates. Hedges provide food and shelter for animals, and also act as corridors for animals to move along, improving connectivity between habitats.

Hedgerows are also important for preventing flooding. Hedgerows provide weather barriers and contribute to natural flood management by intercepting rainfall and slowing runoff from the land.

When planting close to a river, as we are doing for our Blythe Alive project, the flood management aspect of hedgerow gapping-up has been particularly important. The improved hedgerows will help to absorb rainfall and therefore limit the amount of water running into the river. They will also intercept sediment and pollutants from land run-off which would otherwise contaminate the river. This lowers risks of flooding, loss of nutrients from the land, and pollution of the river.

Hawkswell Farm

We have planted 1000 hedgerow plants and Black Poplars at Hawkswell Farm. This planting contributes to gapping-up the existing hedgerows, which is necessary for maintaining their longevity and structure.

Volunteers planting trees at Hawkswell Farm

This work was carried out with the help of our dedicated volunteers, and plays an important part in our project to improve the health status of the River Blythe and the quality of its surrounding ecosystem.

Tree planting – filling the gaps

Tame Valley Wetlands staff and volunteers recently braved the soggy conditions underfoot to plant some native hedgerow trees in fields adjacent to the River Blythe. Hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, dog-rose, wild cherry and field maple were among the species used to fill in gaps in existing hedgerows. Species-rich hedgerows have multiple benefits for wildlife and the ecosystem as a whole by serving as a habitat for a number of organisms and movement corridors for wildlife. They also provide shelter, natural connectivity in the landscape, and reduce soil erosion by preventing excessive run off. The hedgerow planting is another part of our larger Water Environment Grant funded project focusing on improving the ecological status of the Blythe SSSI and surrounding land. Local landowner support has been critical to the success of this project and we certainly benefit from the strong relationships we have with our local farmers and project partners.

Posted by Tame Valley Wetlands on Thursday, 28 November 2019

Packington Farm

With the help of a team of volunteers from Severn Trent Water, we planted around 2000 hedgerow plants at Packington Estate to create a new hedgerow for the field.

Volunteers planting hedgerows at Packington Estate

The new hedgerow will provide more habitats and more protection against flooding for the field.

Watch the video below to see just how many plants were planted to create this hedgerow!

Hedgerow planting!

The results of a day's hedgerow planting with help from Severn Trent Water – around 2000 whips planted to create a new hedgerow!

Posted by Tame Valley Wetlands on Friday, 13 March 2020

Planting at Southfields Farm

In October 2019, the Tame Valley Wetlands team and TameForce volunteers planted plug plants at Southfields Farm as part of our work to help restore and improve the River Blythe SSSI.

Plug plants in their trays before planting
Plug plants in their trays before being planted

Plug plants are small-sized seedlings, grown in trays, which can then easily be planted into prepared soil. We are using species such as Meadowsweet, Reed Sweet Grass and Marsh Marigold.

Planting native plant species along the banks of the River Blythe will provide considerable benefits to the health status of the river. Firstly, the inclusion of a range of native species will help improve the biodiversity and species composition of the environment. This is important for the robustness ecosystem surrounding the river, making it more resilient to change and fluctuations. Additionally, the plug plants will help to stabilise the river banks and reduce sediment run-off, which will aid in enhancing the water quality in the river.

We have had fantastic contributions to this work from local and corporate volunteer groups.

After some initial doubts regarding the suitability of the weather conditions (considering the amount of rain we had in previous weeks!) our hard working TameForce volunteers braved the elements and aided in planting a huge number of plants at Southfields Farm.

Volunteers planting at Southfields Farm

Luckily, the rain managed to hold off for our two final planting days at the end of October. During these days, we had volunteers attend to help us with our work, as well as staff from Jaguar Land Rover. Morale was kept high by supplies of tea, coffee and biscuits, and we successfully reached our target of planting 14,000 plants in total.

Volunteers planting at Southfields Farm

Southfields Farm – 8 months on

8 months later, in June 2020, efforts have been rewarded with an abundance of wildflowers and grasses growing in the fields.

Click through the slide show below to see the results!

Thank you to all who helped us to complete this work – we really could not have done it without you!