2023 Himalayan Balsam Update
Himalayan balsam may not be as notorious as Japanese knotweed, but it has gained its own infamy among conservationists. As the understanding of the risks associated with Himalayan balsam spreads among the public, the call to address Himalayan balsam and other Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS), during a global biodiversity crisis is growing louder. The momentum to combat this invasive species is building, with increasing demands for long-term government initiatives to tackle their spread and damaging effects. To read more about Himalayan balsam and our previous year’s work tackling it, head to our website.
At present, the need to address this issue is being answered by local action groups, passionate individuals, and initiatives like the Carneddau Landscape Partnership. As core partners in the Carneddau Landscape Partnership, our goal has been to make a lasting impact on Himalayan balsam in the Carneddau region of Eryri. Our approach involves raising awareness, training volunteers, and supporting local action groups in their efforts to combat this invasive plant.
The 2023 balsam season began on a positive note, with a successful meeting that brought together dedicated volunteers from four different communities in the Carneddau, and representatives from Partneriaeth Ogwen, Cyngor Gwynedd, and the Eryri National Park Authority. The primary focus of this meeting was to share knowledge and brainstorm effective strategies for mapping and controlling Himalayan balsam. During this meeting, we were introduced to Amy Greenland from the Eryri National Park Authority (ENPA), who took on the monumental task of mapping the distribution of Himalayan balsam across the entire Carneddau region. The maps below are the product of her long summer of surveying and serve a crucial role in planning the strategic clearance of Himalayan balsam. Additionally, these maps guide ENPA in identifying areas of high concern for balsam removal. This information will be combined with the locations of active local action groups to decide where employing contractors to clear large infestations of balsam will have the most significant and long-term impact.
This season we committed to upskilling volunteers and spreading knowledge and awareness through accredited training sessions. In April, we conducted our first Invasive Species Planning accredited training session at the Bethesda Rugby Club, with eight enthusiastic participants. The goal was to ensure that participants left with the confidence and ability to organize and lead group volunteering efforts, from obtaining landowner permission and conducting risk assessments to implementing biosecurity measures and strategic balsam removal methods. This was a great success, and we look forward to offering this service to more people thinking about organising community action groups.
In June, we pulled on our wellies and rolled down our sleeves and got stuck into our practical balsam bashing work, hosting public balsam bashes in Crafnant, Bethesda and Rowen. In total this year our volunteers dedicated 393 hours to clearing balsam from the Carneddau, and we are profoundly grateful for their efforts. Alongside our practical days, we also ran practical training sessions in Bethesda and Crafnant, with ten volunteers completing our practical invasive species module. Here, they not only gained hands-on experience in identifying and clearing balsam, but also gained an official accreditation and certificate from Tec Wales to prove their knowledge.
We also reached out to local primary schools, to engage with the younger generation on nature, conservation, and the importance of local volunteer action. Both Ysgol Llangelynnin and Ysgol Llanllechid took part. As with many schools around the Carneddau, the balsam was within walking distance of them. These sessions were extremely rewarding, with pupils taking great pleasure in being surrounded by nature and being given the green light to pull, snap and stomp on Himalayan balsam. The message of caring for nature was delivered, and also that conservation can be fun!
This year we managed to spread the word on biosecurity more widely than before, and this was largely due to the Wildlife Trust’s WaREN project. WaREN provided us with biosecurity kits, which we distributed to all our volunteers this year to promote positive biosecurity measures, including the “Check, Clean, Wash” approach printed on their kits. These kits contain an INNS guidebook, a boot brush with a water bottle attachment, a flannel, and a boot pick. Following this simple guidance after a balsam bashing day makes a huge difference in preventing the spread of the plant as their seeds easily get lodged in the crevices of boots and then distributed to balsam-free areas. A simple action like checking your boots, brushing them down, and washing them can stop the spread of balsam and a wide range of other harmful invasives.
The WaREN project also introduced the INNS mapper app, a user-friendly invasive non-native species recording app that allows you to view all records added to it for free. This app also features functionality for recording management actions taken, making it a valuable tool for community groups and organizations to work strategically and collaboratively.
Thank you as well to artist Gillian Brownson from FFiwsar. Having joined numerous balsam bashing days, Gillian has produced a captivating podcast episode, which gives a first hand experience of a day in the life of a volunteer balsam basher amidst the Conwy valley’s vibrant volunteer community. Notably, the podcast features an engaging conversation with Netti Collister, a remarkable individual who, alongside her husband Rob, spearheads a highly effective community action group in the Henryd and Rowen region. Over the years, they have worked systematically to clear the surrounding hedgerows and the river Roe. Despite the enormity of their task, they continually make progress, successfully reclaiming new sections from balsam each year while revisiting older infested areas. To enjoy this podcast episode, you can listen online at here and stay connected with Gillian Brownson through her Facebook page.
Another incredibly active community action group is based slightly further up the Conwy valley, in the village of Tal-y-bont. This group has been making remarkable progress, clearing an extensive infestation of balsam in the woodlands and surrounding farmland of Llanbedr y Cennin. Thanks to their incredible vision and persistence, they have cleared nearly 30,000 balsam plants this year alone! Their goal is to completely eradicate it from their patch, and based on their trajectory, there is little doubt they will succeed.
Looking ahead, we are hoping to host another Carneddau meeting this winter to discuss the balsam strategy for 2024. If you live in the Carneddau or the surrounding villages and want to be part of this growing momentum, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on email@example.com. Together, we are making progress in addressing the challenges posed by this invasive species, and with growing awareness and collective action, we can look forward to a more balsam-free Carneddau.