Wandle cleanup: August 2012: Sutton

The one with the HB Games

With an August sun as hot as any Olympic flame beating down on us, 28 volunteers convened in Beddington Park for another shot at eradicating Himalayan balsam (HB) from the Wandle, and we knew it was going to be a marathon.

This invasive species, originally from the western Himalayas, is the tallest annual plant in Britain growing up to 3m high.  During the summer months, HB attracts pollinators away from native species with its high sugar nectar content and extended flowering period.

In the autumn when it dies back, it can leave the river bank bare of supporting vegetation leaving it vulnerable to erosion. DEFRA currently estimates that it would cost £150 – 300 million to eradicate HB from the UK, using four basic methods of weed control: mechanical, natural, chemical and environmental.

With people at the heart of our cleanups, ours is currently the ‘mechanical’ method!  Whilst a small group was despatched to the top of Beddington Park to pull up a few isolated stands further upstream, half of the remaining volunteers got into the river, and in amongst the nettles on the banks, to pull up the plant stems, making sure we had the roots too, before loading them into trugs and half barrels.

Others put the plants into builders’ bags, recycled from last year’s river restoration activities, and loaded them into the van which shuttled across the meadow to and from the dump site.

We worked steadily all morning, and were feeling very hungry and thirsty when Sally and Jo declared it was time for a break. Sally had festooned the gazebo with multi-country flags and provided England cups filled with refreshing, home-made elderflower cordial.

Knowing that endurance athletes need the most calories, Jo presented us with an Olympic cake…

… and gold, silver and bronze platters of delicious edible medals:

Suitably imbued with Olympic spirit, it seemed that when we went back to work, our afternoon activities began to resemble Olympic events too:

Warming up before the event…

… mountain biking…

… pole vaulting…


… rowing…

… and weight lifting…

… all culminating in total exhaustion after being pushed to the limit!

Even the rubbish we pulled out of the river seemed to form an Olympic symbol!

And with a final Wandle Trust salute to a couple of Olympic superstars…

… we decided that as the official London 2012 Games drew to a close, it was gold medals all round for Team HB!

Thanks to all our volunteers:  Abi, Ailis, Andy, Ann, Barry, Bella, Charles, Chris, Daniel, Doug, Gideon, Helen, Jan, Jane, Jez, Jo H, Jo S,  John, Lucinda, Michael, Mike, Nick, Oliena, Roger, Rosie, Sally, Sue and Theo

… who collected:

A tonne or so of Himalayan balsam, plus 1 coconut (always!), 1 road barrier, 1 bread basket, 1 child’s buggy, 1 frisbee, 1 bicycle tyre, 1 Zimmer frame, 1 metal pole, 1 skateboard, 2 shopping trolleys,  2 hub caps and 15 bin bags of assorted rubbish.

As always, we’re also very grateful to David of Sutton Council’s Waste Management Team who arranged collection of the rubbish and the pile of Himalayan balsam.

This event was supported by the Sutton Community Fund

3 thoughts on “Wandle cleanup: August 2012: Sutton

  1. JJ

    I moved to Wallington a few months back,is angling allowed in Beddington Park on the river?

    Kind Regards


  2. Theo

    JJ, as far as we’re aware the Friends of Beddington Park discourage fishing in the park – in any case there may not be many fish in this arm of the river due to impassable weirs preventing recolonisation after past water quality problems, fish kills etc…

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