Tag Archives: invasive species

Floating Pennywort on the Wandle

Alan Martin, our Invasive Non-Native Species Officer, has been very busy this last growing season. Working with our trained River Rangers to map all invasive plants on the Wandle, and with the newly trained Hit Squad to start controlling them, we are making great progress.

One species we’ve had some great success with is floating pennywort. This aquatic invasive plant can be found along the river from Carshalton to Wandworth. Alan has developed and implemented a combined manual and chemical approach to tackle this species from its source in Sutton, and work until it is out of the river in Wandsworth. While this is going swimmingly, he has also looked at two sites on the Wandle where pennywort has a stronghold: Watermeads and Ravensbury Park.

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At Watermeads, the floating pennywort had infested a large backwater, a potentially key habitat for river wildlife with added aesthetic, recreational and ecological benefits. Working with the National Trust, Alan set to develop a management regime for this habitat to maintain it as an open water and keep pennywort at bay.

So how did we do it?

Manual Removal

To reduce overall biomass, several hand pulling events were held with volunteers from the National Trust and Wandle Trust – you may recall the epic Battle of Watermeads? Rafts of pennywort were cut away and towed to the bank using long grapple lines. The pennywort was then wheelbarrowed to a site away from the river where it would be left undisturbed to rot away.

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Foliar spraying

After reducing the initial biomass, herbicide was then used on the regrowth. With Environment Agency permission, Alan and Richard (from the National Trust) applied the first spray of herbicide in February this year.

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With this combined approach, open water was achieved!

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Continued monitoring

The secret to this work is that the work actually never stops. As long as there is a source of pennyworth on the Wandle, there is a risk the backwater could become re-infested. The local angling club at Watermeads and the National Trust volunteers have taken ownership of this site and continue to check for signs of pennywort, pulling out new plants. By keeping on top of it this way, it should never reach the scale it was back in 2015.

So what’s next?

Working with Merton Council and the Friends of Ravensbury Park, we are starting a similar management plan on the lake in Ravensbury Park which has been full of pennywort for years. Watch this space!

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Wandle cleanup: August 2016: Wandsworth

The one with the new recruits

Hard to believe a month has passed since we were in Plough Lane but it was indeed cleanup time again on the Wandle last weekend.

For August, 49 of us gathered in King George’s Park in Wandsworth, ready for some cleanup action. We had a number of new faces with us this month including some passers-by who found us in Plough Lane back in July, a local rugby team and a team from EquiLend.

After the usual Health & Safety Briefing we got started. The first task for us was to make a path to the river. As we normally visit King George’s Park in the winter, we were suddenly faced with a forest of nettles and brambles. Using a spade and loppers, Phil and Guy created the first path down to the river and our wading team set off.

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While this was happening, I sent a second team to create similar paths through the nettles at the other two gates, ready to wheelbarrow the rubbish. It was not an easy task!

With the waders in the water, it didn’t take long for the rubbish to start coming out. Behind the willow trees, large amounts of debris had collected such as drinks cans and bottles.

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We also found perhaps the creepiest doll I’ve ever seen amongst the debris…

Creepy Doll

Our bank support team and litterpickers stumbled upon a large stand or two of Himalayan balsam. As balsam seeds can be transported downstream by the river, it is best to tackle this plant from the source of the river first, which we’re doing at Richmond Green, Beddington Park, Hackbridge and Culvers Island. However, when spotted it is always worth preventing it from setting seed so that when we do make it down to Wandsworth, we have less to tackle. So a small team of volunteers pulled the plants up, using bin bags to catch the seeds.

Himalayan Balsam

Jane made sure every last plant was found by checking from the river itself.

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By lunchtime the rubbish pile was huge and so I decided to have our break a little earlier, not that anyone would get out of the river!

Finally, 49 people gathered at the tent to have tea, coffee and homemade cake kindly made by Sally and Ann. We all had a rest and basked in the sunshine which had come out in full force since the morning.

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It wasn’t long until everyone wanted to get back to work, most likely seeking the shade of the river! So we went off again…

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The afternoon saw two main wading teams competing for the best Wandle find. A rugby team stuck together finding bicycle tyres, a trike, typewriter and 2 bed spring bases.

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Whereas the rest of the waders were slightly further upstream tackling a giant lorry tyre!

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By the time is came around to three o’clock I could get neither team out of the river!

The rubbish pile at the end of the day was an impressive pile for just 300m of river..

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So what did we find?  1 lorry tyre, 1 coconut, 1 plastic banana, 1 jewellery box, 1 creepy doll, 1 trike frame, 1 paddling pool, 1 engine block, 1 typewriter, 1 pair of waders, 2 car tyres, 2 wooden pallets, 2 bed spring bases, 2 baby rattles, 4 baby dummies, 5 bikes, 6 footballs, 7 bits of random piping (all shapes and sizes), bags and bags of other junk and 7 piles of Himalayan balsam.

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Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent, Wally for helping supervise the cleanup, and the Waste Team at Wandsworth Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Alex, Allison, And, Ann, Becky, Boguslawa, Carol, Cassandra, Charles, Chris, Clare, Dan, Dave J, Dave W, David A, David C, David H, David T, Eughan, Gideon, Guy, Haydn, Jacek, James, Jane, Jason, John, Jon, L Marshall, Mark, Michael, Nick, Oliver, Penny, Pete, Peter, Phil, Richard, Rose, Rowena, Sally, Sarah, Steve, Stewart, Stuart, Theo, Wally, Zoe B and Zoe D.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That when volunteers are determined, there is no way of getting them out of the river..

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Parrot’s Feather in Beddington Park

The River Wandle has its problems when it comes to invasive non-native species. Floating pennywort is well established, Himalayan balsam can be found up and down the river, and Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed are well spread too. Therefore when it comes to the control of these, progress can be slow.

But it is a different story for Parrot’s Feather!

Parrots Feather

Parrot’s Feather is an aquatic invasive plant native to central and south America.

Parrot’s Feather loves to grow in still or slow moving water bodies, and because of this it became a popular plant for gardens and aquariums. However, like so many of these introduced species, Parrot’s Feather escaped and has become established in the wild.

The plant can quickly grow to cover small waterbodies, displacing native species and blocking out sunlight to the water below. In slow moving waters, it can cause flooding by blocking up watercourses and drainage channels.

Before

Luckily on the Wandle we only had one record of Parrot’s Feather, and that was in Manor Pond at Beddington Park. To ensure there was no further spread, we worked with Sutton Council to organise a volunteer day to remove the plant, every last stem!

Our five lucky volunteers, Ed, Dave, Wally and Phil, joined our INNS Officer Alan and Louise from the Living Wandle team to manually remove the plant.

Removing Parrots Feather

While our volunteers worked, our Education Officer ran a number of activities for families passing by to raise awareness about invasive non-native species.

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To start things off, Alan set up nets to catch any stray bits of Parrot’s Feather that might break away during the works. This helped ensure we wouldn’t spread the plant any further. Vegetation was cut back so we could be extra sure none was hiding anywhere.

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Then it was time to grapple and fork it out. Back breaking work… or so I heard…

Parrots Feather

It took 3 hours but all the Parrot’s Feather was removed, and Sutton Council’s Parks Team came and collected the plant to be disposed of.

So the classic before and after…

Before and After

Wandle cleanup: June 2016: Wandsworth

The one with all the rain

I have now been running cleanups for almost two years and I was getting pretty proud of my track record of providing sunshine for everyone. But I failed at this June cleanup. Really failed.

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The weather leading up to this cleanup had been very stormy, with thunder and lightning. The morning of the cleanup was drizzling rain – the deceptive sort of rain where you are unaware of just how wet you are getting. But thankfully, I wasn’t alone. A small group of volunteers showed up to power through the rain!

We were at Trewint Street for this cleanup, funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a HLF funded scheme all about reconnecting people with the River Wandle. After the usual Health & Safety briefing we climbed down to the Wandle and started pulling out the rubbish which had collected from fly tipping, but also washed down from upstream in the recent heavy flows.

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Even though we were a small group, the rubbish was being dragged up the concrete banks with impressive speed. We found a bicycle, the old railings from the path (preventing access for motorbikes), a barrel and the drum of a washing machine.

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 And if that wasn’t challenge enough, we even found a mattress which took everyone to heave it up over the concrete banks and round to the ever growing rubbish pile.

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As the rain came down, I made use of the tent sides, which I was very thankful I’d decided to pack last minute – quite a squeeze for our little Zipvan.

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Instead of the usual litter picking, our other volunteers tackled a large stand of Himalayan balsam on the bank at Trewint Street. The stand was very dense and had grown very tall, but was yet to flower. Therefore by pulling it up now, we would be preventing it from seeding and making our job easier in the future when we make it down this far with our Invasive Species Officer.

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By lunchtime we were all pretty soaked, so we huddled under the tent to warm up with a cup of tea and some cake kindly made for us by Ann. Given the rain and our sodden coats, we decided to be democratic and take a vote on whether to keep cleaning, or to finish early and head home for warm showers.

I am sure you can guess which won…

So what did we find?  1 barrel, 1 bin, 1 bed headboard (dismantled), 1 washing machine drum, 1 plastic chair, 1 bike, 1 royal mail bag, 1 mattress, 1 country fair sign, 2 road signs, 3 bike barriers, 5 tennis balls, 20+ planks of wood and 35+ bags of other rubbish. Plus all that balsam!

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Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent, Wally for helping supervise the cleanup, and the Waste Team at Wandsworth Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming:  Aaron, Andy, Ann, Charles, Chris, Claire, Dave, Derek, George, Guy, Joanna, John S, John N, Per, Phil, Rianna, Rose, Steve, Stewart, Wally and Will.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That as much as I might think it, I cannot control the weather with the power of my mind. Time to work on the weather machine…

Wandle cleanup: May 2016: Sutton

The one with the traffic jam

For our May cleanup, we headed to Beddington Park. The event was funded by the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership, a HLF funded scheme all about reconnecting people with the River Wandle.

I arrived an hour and a half early for this event. Why you may ask? Well I was woken up early with a small nightmare about the cleanup. I dreamt that I arrived at the event, unpacked the van and got everything set up myself. At 11 o’clock no volunteers had arrived and instead I get a phone call saying I was in the wrong place, and all the volunteers were waiting the other side of the park!

Luckily on the day, this didn’t happen.

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For the day we had two aims: the first was our usual Wandle cleanup, and the second was to tackle invasive Himalayan balsam. In the past we’ve hunted balsam later in the year, when the plant stood high above the nettles with its bright pink flowers. Since we’re now getting closer to eradicating this species from Beddington Park and the upper Wandle, we decided to hit it even earlier in the year. But that did make spotting it slightly harder…

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After a welcome talk and Health & Safety briefing we divided into teams. We had a wading team which went off into the Wandle to start removing rubbish, we had a bank support team to ferry the rubbish to the pile, a litter picking team around the park and two balsam pulling teams headed up by Theo Pike and Alan Martin.

As our Invasive Species Officer, Alan had surveyed the whole park ahead of the event and mapped where the small balsam plants could be found. But as they were only small, our volunteers needed a keen eye.

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Meanwhile, our waders had already discovered a trolley!

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Keeping an eye on the waders involved some getting past some extensive greenery on the sides of the banks, something we don’t have a problem with in winter.

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By lunch time everyone was very hot and relieved to find a bit of shade from the hot sun. We sat around eating our lunches and drinking water, marvelling at the traffic chaos that was happening in the park. Car after car had turned up for a day in the sun only to result in a grid local down the narrow Church Road.

After lunch, the wading team heading further into the park and found another trolley, some traffic cones and a pot of paint.

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After this though, the river was very clear and for once we felt like what we were doing was making a difference.

The balsam bashing team continued to tackle the wetland areas within the park, making sure every last plant was discovered and pulled up.

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Finally after a long day in the sun, we packed up the van and all joined the traffic jam awaiting us trying to get down Church Road. What a palaver!

Rubbish Pile

So what did we find?  1 bucket, 1 cage front, 1 dismantled tent and wire, 1 saucepan (thought this might be a good addition to my new flat), 1 pot of paint, 2 trolleys, 2 road work signs, 3 disposable BBQs, 5 traffic cones, 6 panels of metal fencing, 15 planks of wood and 20 bags of other junk. Plus all the tiny, tiny balsam plants….

Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Rosie & Dave for supervising the Event Tent, Theo & Alan for helping supervise the balsam bashing, John, Chris and Wally for helping to supervise the waders and the Parks Team at Sutton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Alex, Andrea, Andy, Anna, Ben, Charles, Chris, Dave, Derek, Ed, Geoff, Geoffrey, Gillian, Guy, Hanna, Helen, Henry, Hillevi, Ian, Isabelle, Jamie, Jane , Janet, JJ, Joe, John L, John N, John S, John W, Keith, Klara, Len, Mark M, Martina, Mia, Nick H, Nigel, Per, Rob, Rosie, Roy, Sally, Sofia, Sue, Thebias, Theo, Twyla, Victor, Wally and Will

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That Beddington Park is the beach of South London on a hot summer’s day.

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Wandle cleanup: April 2016: Wandsworth

The one with the local chef

For our April cleanup, it was time to venture to an unknown site for myself (but a well-known site for the regulars) – Ravensbury Terrace. This site is the next stop downstream from Trewint Street so we knew there would be plenty to find.

This was a slightly special cleanup as we were being filmed! Our work on the Carshalton Arm of the Wandle had recently won the Urban Category for the UK River Prize and for this we needed to produce a film about the project. One of the most important elements of our project was community engagement and our wonderful volunteers – and the cleanup was the perfect chance to catch them!

After a welcome talk from myself, we all got in the river to film a shot for our video – you’ll be able to watch the full film soon so keep your eyes peeled…

Once that was all wrapped up, the cleanup commenced. The first challenge was getting down to the bank via an upcycled staircase made of wooden pallets – the perfect addition to any fashionable London house. Once down there, we had a narrow path to ferry the rubbish back and forth.

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To make matters worse, there were several Giant Hogweed plants growing along the path. Giant Hogweed is a nasty invasive plant which can grow up to 5m tall – outshading native vegetation. The plant also produces a toxic sap which can cause chemical burns to the skin following exposure to sunlight. To help prevent anyone having to experience this, Theo Pike covered each plant with its very own traffic cone. We always there would be a use for all the traffic cones we found in the river!

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The rubbish quickly started appearing, as it always does. A metal drum, traffic cones, push chairs and more.

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As we worked up the river, we stumbled upon my favourite find of my (almost) two years of cleanups – a chef!

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As soon as he was safely out of the river, we made sure he was put to good use…

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Just before lunch, we got close to Trewint Street. On a previous cleanup there we had found a motorbike in the river, but we knew we’d be unable to haul it up the concrete flood walls above the bridge, so we pulled it out of the river and left it here it on the bank. But now it was time for collection.

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The bike was extremely heavy and the path was very narrow (even narrower with the hogweed plants). Our volunteer first broke the steering lock off the bike, allowing us to move it down the path easier. Two wrecking poles were then used to lift the bike.

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At the other end, our volunteers built a ramp up the pallet stairs and we all watched and hoped the ramp wouldn’t give way..

But it didn’t, one bike successfully removed. Time for lunch.

We were once again spoilt by the students from the American International University in London, who baked us a very impressive spread of cakes including salted caramel brownies and gooey chocolate cookies.

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During lunch, we even had time to interview some of our volunteers about the project and how the river in Carshalton has changed.

The cleanup resumed after lunch. A mattress was found and removed with some effort,  together with planks of wood and lots of piping as well.

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Cleanup 9Trug after trug were filled, emptied and ferried to the rubbish pile.

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So what did we find?  1 mattress, 1 chef statue, 1 jumper, 1 vase of flowers, 1 robot hand, 1 donkey toy from Shrek (great early birthday present, thank you), 1 motorbike, 1 pushchair, 2 chairs, 3 traffic cones, 6 tyres, lots of plastic piping, lots of planks of wood, bags and bags of bottles, cans and other junk.

Huge thanks to the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership for funding the event as part of the River Guardians projects, everyone who helped unpack and pack up the van during the event, Dean’s Blinds for hosting us, the students for catering for our volunteers, Rosie for supervising the Event Tent and the Waste Management Team at Wandsworth Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming:  Aaron, Alex, Andy ,Barbara, Bella, Brandon, Brian, Charles, Charly, Chris, Daniel, Dave, Denis, Derek, Ed, Eden, Emes, Guy, Ian, Jamie, Jess, Joe, John, Keith, Ken, Lisa, Mark, Matthew, Merel, Miriam, Nick, Olivia, Paul, Penny, Per, Phil, Piper, Rachelle, Rafael, Rob, Rose, Sally Ann, Sara, Steve, Theo, Victor, Victoria, Vittorio, Wally and Wayne.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   That you can make anything you need from what you find in the Wandle

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Wandle Cleanup: August 2015: Sutton

The one where we cooked in our waders…..

This August was the first of our Capital Cleanups, kindly funded by the Mayor of London Capital Cleanup fund, held in Beddington Park on a very, very sunny and hot day. Not ideal weather for waders or wellies.

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Rose was kind enough to help me load the van for this event, and I was thankful to have her with me as I turned up to site to find a car boot sale blocking the road. Luckily we squeezed the van through and set up in our usual spot ready for everyone to arrive.

This month we divided into three teams: the wading team; their wader support and balsam bashers. Theo had found several patches of Himalayan balsam in the park which he was keen to get on top of.

Within 20 minutes of sending the waders off to the river, they returned with two trolleys – not what I was expecting from a seemingly clear stretch of the Wandle! We were wondering if Asda would be wanting these back…

Trolleys

Soon more and more rubbish was coming out: tyres, pitch fork, metal fencing, large pieces of wood. For a narrow stretch of the river, it didn’t disappoint.

Rubbish pile building..

Behind the wading team, Theo and a couple of others were checking for individual Himalayan plants on the river bank to ensure we swept the whole park clean.

Balsam Hunting

While this was going on, a brave team tackled a large infestation further into the park where the balsam was the height of trees and the stems were the thickest we’d ever seen them. A true balsam jungle amongst the nettles.

Balsam Bashers

Wheel Barrow RelaxationBy lunchtime we were all very hot and ready for a cool drink. Jackie had kindly made us some jam tarts and I had baked three chocolate cakes which I then packaged to look like they had in fact been purchased… it’s the small touches.

After lunch we reluctantly put our waders and wellies back on and got back in the river. The wading team had cleared the river before lunchtime so after lunch we all focused on the balsam.

With the bulk of it removed, we were looking for smaller plants in the undergrowth which we wanted to catch before they set seed for another year. It took a little while to get our eyes honed in, but sure enough there were plenty hiding in the nettle jungle.

Hunting

With Beddington Park cleared of balsam (for this year anyway) and rubbish we decided to finish a bit early to cool off.

Thank you to all the volunteers who came along and tolerated the heat for our event!

Finished Pile

So what did we find?  1 pitch fork, 1 paint tub, 1 watercolour set, 1 scooter seat, 1 wooden chair, 1 hamster cage, 1 tyre, 2 buckets, 2 Asda trolleys, 3 set of tea china, 4 coconuts, 8 large pieces of wood, steel roofing, plenty of metal fencing, 25 bags of other junk and barrows and barrows of Himalayan balsam.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped pack up van after the event and Rose for helping me load and unload; Jackie for catering for our volunteers; Rose for supervising the Event Tent; Chris, Wally, Theo & Dave for helping supervise everyone on the day and the Waste Management Team at Sutton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Charles, Chris, Daniel, Dave, David, Denis, Derek, Fred, George, Gillian, Graham, Helen, Hugo, Ian, James, Jamie, Joe, John, Karoline, Keith, Ken, Lisa, Lois, Louise, Mark, Mike, Neil, Per, Phil, Richard, Rob, Ruth, Sally Ann, Theo, Tom K, Victor and Wally.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?   Sunshine and chest waders are not a great mix.

Barrow of Balsam

All photos kindly taken by Sally Ann Symis

The Battle of Watermeads

The Battle of Watermeads was fought between the Wandle Trust and two invasive plants which had been successfully invading the River Wandle for many years: Himalayan balsam and floating pennywort.

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General Alan MartinHistorians have pinpointed the start of this epic, ongoing war of attrition against the Wandle’s invasive non-native species as far back as June 2010 or earlier, and our latest campaign has certainly started with the recruitment of General Alan Martin.

Alan joined the Wandle Trust movement in April 2015 to help coordinate a river wide action plan against plants and other invaders, and Himalayan balsam and floating pennywort have quickly become two of his most formidable opponents.

On Friday 31st July, two armies faced each other in Watermeads Nature Reserve. The Wandle Trust General, Alan Martin, had recruited 29 dedicated and loyal volunteers to his cause. Together they faced a terrifying scene and were horrendously outnumbered by the ranks of balsam and pennywort established throughout the reserve. But this did not deter them.

The strategy: Divide and Conquer

The battle started at 11am. General Alan divided his ranks into two regiments, each to face one of the enemies alone. General Alan took charge of the floating pennywort regiment and took to the high seas of the Watermeads back water. Captain Joe bravely guided the vessel behind enemy lines to cut free rafts of pennywort, while the rest of the regiment waited on shore to haul in the catch with grapples and rakes.

Captain Joe and his Crew

Raking and Grappling

Meanwhile on the western front, the Himalayan balsam regiment was beginning their attack. Alan had appointed Lieutenant Polly to lead the balsam front and with her ranks in tow they marched into the undergrowth. To begin with, they found small patches of the plant and made quick progress pulling these up and piling to compost. However as they ventured further into the reserve they came face to face with an overwhelmingly large forest. Numbers which far exceeded their own…

Two loyal soildiers

Balsam No Man's Land

As the battle raged on, General Alan’s faithful sidekick, Pepper, kept watch on the troops and raised morale.

At 4pm, both armies called a truce and re-grouped ready to fight another day. The Wandle Trust Army had come out on top with no casualties save for a few nettle stings. For the invasive plants, it was a tough defeat. Pennywort and balsam casualties were everywhere.

Pennywort Pile

Top Soildier

All that was left was for the Wandle Trust Army to clean up and make sure they weren’t spreading the enemy further by their equipment. The answer? Power hose. A prospect all too exciting for Pepper.

Biosecurity

Join us for the Battle for Watermeads II on Friday 21st August, 11am. Campaign plans can be found here.

Your River Needs You!

This battle has been key to General Alan’s plan for the whole river – a campaign to eradicate invasive non-native species from the river to allow the return of native flora and fauna. A campaign which is part of the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.

You can join General Alan’s crusade and sign up as a River Ranger to hunt down and monitor other invasive plants along the river.

This event was supported by the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Funded through the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.

Your River Needs You!

River Rangers

Will you join our River Rangers Team and help hunt down invasive non-native species on the Wandle?

We are looking for enthusiastic volunteers to join our River Rangers team and help us monitor invasive species on the River Wandle from its source to the Thames.

Our team of trained recorders will survey the entire length of the Wandle three times a year, building up a picture of where the invasive species are and how well our management efforts are working in controlling them.

Training for the team will take place this August on the 19th or 20th – date and venue to be confirmed soon.

What will be covered?

  • What makes a biological record?
  • Invasive plant identification in all seasons
  • Invasive plant ecology and biology
  • Biosecurity
  • Uploading your data

What will be involved?

Following training, our River Rangers will be unleashed on the Wande three times a year to map invasive species through the different growing seasons. Data will be uploaded online to LISI – London Invasive Species Initiative.

The first River Ranger day will be Sunday 27th September 2015.

This project will form a valuable baseline monitoring system for our efforts in the eradication of these invasive species. Next year, a Hit Squad will be trained up in the management of INNS and will work alongside our River Rangers to manage and control the species they record.

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This project is supported by the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership.

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Wandle cleanup: June 2015: Sutton

The one with our new Invasive Species Officer

WatermeadsI had been very excited about this cleanup for a while as it was being held in the newly opened Watermeads Nature Reserve near Poulter Park – a truly beautiful site for a Wandle Trust event!

The event was funded through the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership. To start the event off, we introduced our new Invasive Species Officer – Alan Martin. Alan is working to coordinate the control of invasive species along the entire Wandle corridor with the help of other organisations, local landowners and volunteers.

After the Health & Safety briefing, all 41 of us divided up into 5 teams…

The Briefing

Team 1: The litter pickers!

Since Watermeads was so newly opened to the public, the litter pickers weren’t sure how much general rubbish they would find, but as always they tracked some down! Using our newly purchased litter pickers and our new bag hoops provided by the Capital Cleanup fund, they dispersed into Watermeads and returned with bags of litter!

Waders gonna wade

 

Teams 2 & 3: Wandle waders and bank support  

Again armed with new litter pickers, our wading team headed to the far end of the reserve to hop in the Wandle and start hunting down rubbish. Although shallow in the reserve, the river bed was very silty so the waders made slow progress as they moved upstream. With such high levels of silt, finding rubbish was a challenge – but that didn’t stop them! Using their feet they discovered two trolleys, rolls of carpet and several traffic cones and tyres, all before coffee time.

Trolley

Team 4: Balsam bashers

The Watermeads Nature Reserve was full of Himalayan balsam so Theo led a team to track down each plant and pull it out, roots and all. They first tackled balsam along the edge of the river and paths – to ensure these plants wouldn’t seed and spread further downstream. After this, the team bravely ventured into the undergrowth of nettles and brambles to find forests of balsam standing well above their heads.

Balsam Bashers

Team 5: Floating pennywort

Alan was keen to tackle the backwater pond in Watermeads which was full of floating pennywort – a highly invasive aquatic plant which can smother a water body and impede water flow. However, the site was challenging as the water was too deep for our waders. Some creative thinking was called for…

Pennywort piles

Volunteers used grappling hooks and rakes to pull in pennywort from the banks. It was a strange sight to see – volunteers lassoing hooks across the pond in the hope of snagging a large raft of pennywort. They quickly cleared one side of the bank and were in need of support to reach the other side.

HMS Pennywort

 

Boating

Two lucky volunteers stepped up and got into a boat. Using very, very small paddles, they freed pennywort from the other side and used grappling hooks to tow the rafts back to the bank. A true example of team work.

Pennyowrt Barrier

Meanwhile, Alan wanted to be sure the pennywort wasn’t spreading any further downstream. With the help of Dave, they created a barrier at the end of the pond to catch any straying bits of pennywort, containing the invasive in one place.

It was a very busy day but we achieved so much in just four hours! So a BIG thank you to all our volunteers who came and we look forward to seeing you at the next one on July 12th in Hackbridge – details to follow soon!

Rubbish Haul

So what did we find?  1 baseball bat, 1 old hairdryer, 1 fire extinguisher, 1 Hindu statue, 1 shovel head, 2 carpets, 4 footballs (including 1 Finding Nemo football, so glad we found him), 3 traffic cones, 3 trolleys, 5 plastic guttering poles, 11 tyres, piles of wood and metal sheets, many bags of other miscellaneous rubbish, piles and piles of Himalayan balsam and even larger piles of floating pennywort!

We found Nemo

Huge thanks to everyone who helped pack up van after the event, Sally and Ann for catering for our volunteers (carrot cake and cheese scones were delicious!), Jackie for supervising the Event Tent, Theo, Sally and Alan for helping supervise everyone on the day, National Trust for letting us loose in Watermeads Nature Reserve and the Waste Management Team at Sutton Council for organising collection of all the rubbish the next day.

Thank you to all our volunteers for coming: Aaron, AJ, Amarapuspa, Ann, Barry, Carol, Charles, Daniel B, Dave J, Dave W, David, Dennis, Derek, Ed, Felix, Harrison, Henry, Ian, Jackie, James W, Jane, Joe, John L, John N, Kas, Keith S, Marta, Marion, Mark, Nicholas, Nick H, Nick W, Per, Richard, Rose, Sally, Sue, Tara, Theo and Thomas C.

So what did I learn from this month’s cleanup?  That you have to be very creative when tackling pennywort in a pond too deep to wade!

Pennywort