Himalayan Balsam is a non-native plant which has spread widely in damp places across the UK, including along the River Frome in Frampton Cotterell. It is an annual which grows rapidly, reaching more than 2 metres tall in some cases, and produces large quantities of seeds in exploding seed pods which allows it to colonise new areas rapidly.
If allowed to establish itself, Himalayan Balsam can form dense clumps which out-compete native wild flowers and which can lead to flooding because of reduced water flow or to river bank erosion as it dies down to leave bare soil in winter.
Fortunately individual Himalayan Balsam plants are relatively easy to destroy as they have very shallow roots which makes them easy to pull out. If this is done before they have a chance to set seeds then the seed bank in the soil will be reduced and eventually eliminated. The challenge for eradication is the sheer quantity of Himalayan Balsam and the difficulty of accessing some areas of the river bank.
In 2013 Village Action began working with the Avon Invasive Weed Forum (AIWF), concentrating initially on the area of the river bank between Parsonage Bridge and Church Road (see map below). Thanks to AIWF (and SITA Trust) we have now acquired some equipment which has enabled us to do more and to tackle areas further upstream which will reduce the recolonisation (see map below).
Working along the river bank is a pleasant way to get exercise during the summer months when Himalayan Balsam is growing. The river is home to a variety of birds, insects, fish and native wild flowers and we often get access to areas of the river bank not normally accessible.
We will provide training in how to recognise Himalayan Balsam and how to deal with it. Himalayan Balsam is not itself harmful to humans though it can often be found in association with nettles and brambles so some care is needed to avoid being stung or scratched. We sometimes work from the river bed but only do so when river levels are low and with the correct safety precautions.
People walking their dogs along the Frome Valley Walkway can be especially helpful. If everyone were to pull out 10 Himalayan Balsam plants as they walk their dog it would make a significant difference. Make sure you pull out the entire plant, crush the stem and put it somewhere where it is unlikely to re-root.
If you'd like to join with us on one of our sessions then please get in touch.