Thursday, 21 September 2017

Summary 2017

Our first session was in mid-May at which time balsam was already growing quite strongly. I'd guess that it was a couple of weeks ahead compared to 2016. A dry Spring resulted in low river levels so we were able to wade safely from the start of the season. Although weather in July and August was much wetter, we managed to get out most weeks while avoiding the rain.

This year we reached new areas in difficult to access places along Glebeland, above the measuring station weir behind Mill Lane and on the river bank opposite Bridge House. Areas previously cleared were generally better than last year though balsam is yet not completely eradicated.

We spent 90 hours of volunteer effort this year, slightly less than last year though we were able to cover a bigger area. We didn't make use of any external volunteer groups as there weren't many areas where balsam was so dense it needed a concerted effort from a large group of people. We did get help from Neil of AIWF and Claire from BART which was much appreciated.

We also did a litter clear removing a large amount of rubbish from the river.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Mill Lane to Cogmill

On a hot and humid afternoon it was nice to get down into the cool and shade of the river behind the houses along Mill Lane. There were some tall plants on the river bank by the footbridge which we quickly cleared before making our way up to the measuring station weir, clearing balsam on both sides as we went.

Behind Mill Lane
Approaching the weir
While Neil and John M were able to find a way over the weir, John L and I went round on the bank, before reconvening and clearing lots of balsam on the way up to Blacks Rocks. We then carried on to the little islands further upstream. These were relatively clear compared to previous years so after clearing any remaining balsam we decided to push on to Cogmill.

Balsam on the way up to Cogmill
There were some big clumps mostly on the side opposite the Frome Valley Walkway but we were able to clear these before getting out at the metal footbridge and making our way back after a very satisfying afternoon.
A job well done!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Bridge House revisited

After postponing yesterday's session due to early morning rain and threat of more to come, today we enjoyed a fine, dry afternoon. Starting in the grounds of Bridge House we cleared up any stragglers from our last visit there and also got down into the river to clear the opposite bank and those balsam growing low down on the river bank.

The water wasn't too deep though the river bed was muddy and sticky in places. We cleared all the way down to the clumps we spotted on the way back from Nightingale's Bridge last week. Apart from any stragglers we may have missed and some plants growing on the edges of the gardens stretching down from Park Row, we've now cleared all the way from Nightingale's Bridge to Church Road.

The seeds are popping though many of them are still white.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Kingfishers, woodpeckers and Nightingale's Bridge

Despite forecast of rain, it remained dry and the river level was quite low so we headed down to Nightingale's Bridge. The field edges on the way down there were relatively clear of balsam so we left them for later.

After clearing the balsam around the bridge, John and Andrew waded upstream to clear some big clumps on the river bank,  spotting a kingfisher flashing past as they made their way along the river bed. Meanwhile Dave and Phil spotted a green woodpecker as they crossed the field to clear the big clump of balsam in the far corner.


... after.
We cleared some more growing amongst the undergrowth by the bridge, then headed back, clearing a few stragglers along the riverbank and spotting lots more on the opposite side which will require a further visit.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Burrs, Brambles and Bindweed

Two years ago the field behind St Peter's Church was a sea of pink balsam flowers.
St Peter's Field 2 Years Ago
This year it was mainly confined to the edges, along the river bank or along the churchyard wall. However access to it was hampered by tangles of burrs, brambles and bindweed.
Burrs and bindweed
Using walking sticks and slashers, we cut our way through to the riverbank and cleared all the balsam there apart from some clumps on the opposite bank. Unfortunately, following recent rain it wasn't possible to wade across to reach them.

Having cleared the riverbank we made our way back along the edge by the churchyard where the balsam is growing amongst tangles of brambles. With much cursing we able to cut our way into the brambles and clear most of the balsam though every time we turned around we seemed to spot another one lurking in the undergrowth.

Another visit will probably be necessary to get at some on the opposite bank and further upstream.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Wading up to Black Rocks

After recent rain the water level was a bit high and the river was flowing quite swiftly. Fortunately the river bed upstream is rocky rather than muddy so wading was not too difficult.

Just above the measuring station, there is a lot of balsam on the far side of the river but it is not very accessible. A little further upstream there were scattered plants on the near bank which we cleared before wading across to tackle the opposite bank. Near to the river this is not as bad as last year but it's still bad further away from the river on the field edge.

At Black Rock we cleared a few isolated plants including one giant which had been growing on a fallen tree lying in the water near to the bank and had developed a stem as thick as a man's leg.

We also cleared a specimen which had been standing proud on the far bank for the past couple of weeks.
Last week


We continued upstream as far as the little islands clearing near to the riverbank though not managing to finish everything along the field edge.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Meadow Mead

For some time the large clumps growing on the river bank off Meadow Mead have been seemingly inaccessible from the river bed or the river bank. However with determination and a couple of saws to cut through the blackthorn bushes we were able to get access and completely clear that area. We also cleared a path along the river bank to make access easier in future years.

These photos show the cleared areas which were previously covered in large balsam.

There was a similar nearly inaccessible clump on the community orchard side of the river which can be seen in the background of the following picture and which we also cleared.

To finish off, we cleared all the balsam growing along the top of the river bank off Meadow Mead between Parsonage Bridge and Church Road.

A very satisfying morning's work!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Paddock downstream from Nightingale Bridge

Last year this area had a huge stand of balsam spreading out into the paddock. This year it was noticeably less with a few largish clumps which didn't take too long to clear.

We then climbed through the fence and cleared the riverbank which had some very large plants with stems which were quite woody near the base.

There's a fallen tree in the river which is gathering a lot of rubbish and forming quite a barrier to the river flow.

A stroll up river from Nightingale Bridge (Wed, 12th July)

At Nightingale Bridge there's a bit less than last year.  Between Nightingale Bridge and Bridge House, the field edges are pleasingly clear of balsam apart from a few stragglers along the river bank. There's rather more on the Hilly Fields side of the river.

There were a few stragglers along Glebelands which I cleared. On the Meadow Mead side of the river there are quite a few large plants amongst the trees and along the riverbank, including some with seeds which are nearly ripe and ready to explode.

Meanwhile, in the river there were a number of biggish fish (chub?) which seemed to be particularly active following recent rain.

Behind St Peter's Church, the field is pretty clear though there were a few plants growing along the riverbank. Behind Mill Lane there's also quite a lot growing.

Further upstream approaching Black Rocks, there are pockets of plants, mostly on the far side of the river. This magnificent specimen can be seen at Black Rocks.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Bridge House

The river bank along the grounds of Bridge House is quite steep with a fair amount of balsam on both sides.
The view from the riverbed

 We cleared a lot but there is still more to do, particularly on the side opposite to Bridge House.

Thanks to Neil for the photos and apologies to Jen who spent most of the afternoon working alone on the top of the bank thus missing out on photo opportunities!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Along the river bed at Glebelands

With the temperature in the high 20s, it was pleasant to wade along the river bed in the shade of the trees.

We cleared a lot of balsam growing low down on the riverbanks and in difficult to reach areas on the Meadow Mead  side of the river. Unfortunately there is still one large clump of very large plants which is difficult to get at either from the river bed or through the undergrowth on the bank.

Although the river level was low, there are still a few deep spots where we could see lots of fish (chub?).

Finally I saw this plant flowering right down at water level but haven't yet managed to identify it.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Upstream from Black Rocks

Almost exactly a year ago we paid a first visit to the area of little islands between Black Rocks and Cogmill. On that occasion, the river was too deep to wade and the area was almost covered in Balsam. We had to revisit the following week to finish clearing.

In contrast, this year the river was not much more than ankle deep and there was far less balsam to clear. However some plants were already more than two metres tall and the first flowers had appeared.

We were able to clear all of the little islands and some of the field edge on the far bank. Another visit in a few weeks time will probably be necessary to tidy up any stragglers which we missed amongst the tangled undergrowth and also to tackle more along the field edge.

Monday, 22 May 2017

First session of 2017

Balsam is already growing strongly (3 to 4ft tall) so we had our first session of the year on a warm spring day. Starting at Parsonage Bridge, we cleared along the river bank upstream, tackled a big clump at the grassy area off Meadow Mead and cleared some patches near the community orchard.

There are still a few more patches to clear which can only be reached from the river bed but it was a good start to the year's activity.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Spring 2017 - Survey along the Frome

On Easter Monday, I walked up the river from Nightingale Bridge to Cogmill to see whether there were any signs of balsam, and also  to enjoy the bluebells.

Although still early in the season there are already signs of balsam growing at various places along the river.  I spotted balsam in the field edge downstream from Bridge House, along the bank by the community orchard and by the open area off Meadow Mead. There's certain to be more I didn't spot. Most plants are just a few inches tall so pulling in any quantity would be back breaking work.

Also on my walk I kept a look out for rubbish in the river. The worst examples were a gas cylinder and a garden chair. There are also some fallen trees which are collecting rubbish

On a more positive note, the walk along the river was very pleasant and the bluebells were looking good!