Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Field behind St Peter's Church

Last year the field behind St Peter's Church was relatively clear of balsam so we didn't bother clearing it. In retrospect this might have been a mistake as this year it was quite badly infested again. The area near the gate was worst and there were a couple of clumps near to the churchyard but the far end of the field was reasonably clear apart from some large plants low down on the river bank.

Before clearing
Since it was quite late in the season we just went in with slashers and cut the balsam down rather than pulling it up.

Although some seed pods were popping, we didn't see any which had fully ripened so hopefully we'll have done enough to reduce the level of infestation again.
After clearing

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Iron Acton 2019

Despite recent rain, the river at Iron Acton was only a little higher than usual at this time of year.

I joined a group of volunteers from Iron Acton and we worked our way upstream from the bridge at Frampton End Road. There was a scattering of balsam all the way along and some big patches on the field edge on the opposite bank.

Dog walkers also told us of some big patches further upstream but unfortunately it started to rain fairly heavily so we decided to call a premature halt. However we managed to clear a good stretch before we finished.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Balsam survey - Saturday 20 July

During our session on Thursday we were able to wade in the river quite comfortably. However after Friday's rain it had risen by at least six inches on Saturday and was flowing quite fast in places.  The normally tranquil waters at Black Rocks had turned into a raging torrent!

Hopefully it'll be equally quick to drop back again.

There are still a few balsam between Parsonage Bridge and Church Road, mostly in the undergrowth on the Meadow Mead side of the river. I would estimate a couple of people could clear it in an hour though wading and/or cutting through the undergrowth would be necessary.

Heading up stream, there were a few stragglers around Black Rocks some of which I cleared. This area has got progressively better over the years and there's just a handful of plants appearing there now. Further upstream there are some really tall plants on the opposite bank and just beyond the metal footbridge at Cogmill there are quite a lot.

Some of those growing in the open are starting to produce seeds so it'd be good to clear those as soon as possible.

Hacking through the undergrowth - Meadow Mead

Starting early to avoid the heat, Andrew and I cleared the undergrowth along Meadow Mead downstream from the Church Road bridge. After heavy rain a few days ago the river level had risen but had since fallen back though it was still deep in a few places and required a certain amount of care.

There weren't very many balsam plants but they were either tangled in bindweed, surrounded by nettles, lurking low down on the river bank or required hacking through the undergrowth to reach. However we managed to clear the majority before the heat started to get the better of us.

On the way back to the car, we had a look at the field behind St Peter's Church. Somewhat depressingly, it was quite bad. We didn't clear this are last year as it had been getting progressively better and the resident horses seemed to be keeping it under control either by grazing or trampling.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Parsonage Bridge to Nightingale Bridge

At this time of year balsam is pushing up above the nettles and producing its distinctive pink flowers making it easier to spot. We started just upstream of Parsonage Bridge where there was a small clump of very tall balsam growing.

We then worked our way through Bridge House, clearing balsam on both sides of the river. The steep banks make access a bit difficult but with some of us on the bank and some working from the river bed we were able to clear this area, stopping only to admire the large purple loosestrife happily growing on a mudbank without competition from balsam.

Purple loosestrife on a mudbank
Led by the intrepid Andrew, we crossed the river to the corner of Hilly Fields where we quickly cleared a largish clump of balsam.

We then headed across the field to Nightingale's Bridge clearing the odd balsam growing on the field edge and one clump in amongst the bushes on the river bank. Just upstream from Nightingale's Bridge the bank is quite steep but with a bit of care on the bank and the river bed we were also able to clear this area.

There were a few plants just downstream from Nightingale's Bridge which we cleared before making our way back, clearing a few more plants which had escaped our attention earlier. We also spotted dozens of red soldier beetles on the hogweed plants along the field edge.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Mill Lane to Cogmill

A perfect day for clearing balsam - dry, sunny, a cooling breeze and river levels quite low. We were joined by Neil and Doug from AIWF/Bristol Zoo for a stroll up river from Mill Lane.

Behind the houses on Mill Lane there were just a few small clumps of balsam.

On the way to Black Rocks an overgrown path leads down to the river. We cut a path through then cleared a few dozen plants along that stretch and a few isolated plants on the other side of the river.

At Black Rocks there were very few plants unlike previous years. The little islands above Black Rocks had quite a few plants but were quite easy to access and didn't take too long to clear.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Glebelands and Meadow View

Early June was rather cool and wet so river levels had been a bit high and balsam was not growing strongly. However after a bit of warmer, drier weather a clearing session in Meadow View and along Glebelands looked promising and necessary particularly since a few plants were coming into flower. A heavy shower in the early morning made life a bit more difficult as the banks were slippery and the river level was a bit higher.

The grassy area off Meadow Mead had a few clumps hidden in the nettles but overall it was not too bad and we cleared it fairly quickly. Similarly on the other side of the river there were a few clumps along the river banks which were a bit tricky to reach because it was slippery and the water level was a bit high but we managed to clear most of them.

There were some big plants at river level near to Church Road bridge so we decided to wade into the river to clear them. There are still a few plants scattered around which we can return to clear when the water level has dropped again.