Himalayan Balsam Removal
Each balsam plant can produce up to 800 seeds in pods that explode and spread the seeds distances of up to 7 metres. Combined with high germination rates and being capable of growing on rocks and trees, it can quickly dominate our native landscape.
Balsam has spread from the lower catchments up into the upper catchments, along tributaries and into our moors following the flow of water.
Our focus has been addressing the issue with a top-down approach. Dormant seeds and fresh seeds disperse easily downhill and downstream, severely undermining removal efforts in the lower catchment.
Throughout June and July we’re hand pulling Himalayan Balsam over a total area of over 100ha (1,000,000 square metres) in the mid and upper catchments in Calderdale to improve biodversity with the help and support of our brilliant volunteers, local landowners and funding from Calderdale Council / Environment Agency Priority Actions Grant.
Hand pulling the plants is hard work but it is the most effective method of removing Himalayan Balsam in order to restore the original biodiversity of these river banks and tributaries. Remaining native flora take advantage of the additional light and exposed mineral soil for their seeds when the balsam is removed and re-establish quickly.
Since January 2020, we have hand planted over 43,000 trees. We use manual cultivation (screefing) to eliminate the need for herbicides.
The trees have been planted as part of our own projects and on behalf of organisations including Treesponsibility and Mersey Forest.
We're keen to avoid using plastic tubing/spirals as it's not sustainable in the long term. We've had excellent results on our own sites, where we haven't used any. In most cases, this requires additional fencing as protection from livestock and deer.
We work closely with various tree planting organisations to get trees planted on some of the more challenging sites which wouldn't be suitable for volunteers.
As part of NFM (Natural Flood Management) projects across Calderdale, we have planted over 500m of willow revetments and built 21 timber leaky dams.
Leaky dams slow down fast flowing water during heavy rain and create temporary ponds to prevent a high peak flow lower downstream that causes flooding.
Slowing the flow of water gives it a better chance to saturate into the ground and prevent overburdening our rivers and streams.
Willow revetments are natural living leaky dams consisting of approx 20 cuttings per metre. Interwoven, they will grow to a high density and restrict the flow of water, with the additional benefit for wildlife and carbon sequestration.
The additional benefit of using willow is that the dams won't rot over time like timber leaky dams do.
Working with Calderdale Council, the Environment Agency and various local organisations, we deliver on natural flood management interventions.
We've ventured into new waters this year with river clean ups. We've been working collaboratively to support local river stewardship agreements with Calderdale Council and the Environment Agency by working with a number of local organisations such as Calder Future, Calder and Holme Rivers Trust and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
We have cleared over 3 km of the River Calder as part of the Calder Greening project with YWT and Calder Future.
Starting from Hebden Bridge Train Station and working towards Sowerby Bridge we have pulled out a staggering amount of waste.
We've also enjoyed the company of Minks, Wagtails and King Fishers. This work gives us the opportunity to explore and enjoy all the nooks and crannies in these valleys.
Hedging creates vital nature corridors and wildlife habitats to link up existing woodlands, prevent surface run off and creates an effective stock and deer fencing. The humble hedge will last a lifetime if looked after and maintained properly will contribute to a healthier balance with nature.
Last year we secured funding for hedging in species rich grasslands and protected SSSI land through Betty's Trees for Life.
We planted over 1km of hedging last season at 6 trees per metre, consisting of a wide variety of species to encourage extra wildlife.
Our aim is to plant over 5km of new hedging every season.
In order to protect young trees, we have to protect the site. This is done with stock fencing or deer fencing. We do all of our own fencing work, and we pride ourselves on delivering quality fences that serve their purpose at great value for money.
This year we've done over 4 km of stock fencing and deer fencing to protect tree planting and willow coppice sites.
We endeavour to use local suppliers for our fencing needs. We buy our fencing materials from Calvag Agricultural Supplies, a local family owned business with an in-depth knowledge of our local area, delivering materials to very remote sites on our behalf.
We work with local landowners to address erosion caused by heavy rainfall. Trees perform remarkably as erosion control when established, but this takes time.
We plant willow cuttings and build fascines as a natural method for erosion control, preventing further erosion and stabilizing banking.
Fascines are rough bundles of brash or other materials, usually made from natural materials nearby, secured in place with living willow stakes to ensure quick establishment. They strengthen bankings and create small terraces to allow flora, fauna and trees to establish and secure the banking completely naturally.
Willow (Salix Viminalis) is a hardy vigorous variety and very versatile material which is traditionally used for living structures, fishing baskets, waste filtration, furniture and soil erosion control.
Every site has its own natural requirements due to the landscape, ecology and present trees and other flora and fauna. We are constantly taking the steps to create a more sustainable future through long-lasting projects that use natural methods and sharing our findings and understanding along the way.