River Laver project to tackle Himalayan balsam

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Two Yorkshire conservation groups are launching a three-year long project to rid the River Laver of invasive Himalayan balsam.

Nidderdale AONB, along with the Yorkshire Dales River Trust are about to kick-off the project focused on the River Laver which runs through Ripon.

The project is funded by the Environment Agency and aims to improve water quality and bank stability and to remove barriers to fish passage, including the survey and control of the invasive non-native plant Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera).

The Laver Project organisers hope to work with local volunteers and landowners to survey and map the current extent of Himalayan balsam on the Laver and Kex Beck – between Pateley Bridge and Skipton – and to use the survey information to put in place a control programme, working from the top of the river catchment to the bottom, gradually removing balsam from the river banks.

Dr Kelly Harmar, Nidderdale AONB Development Officer, said: “Himalayan balsam is a tall plant with distinctive red stems and large pink flowers. Though it is very easy to recognise in summer it dies back each winter, starting again in spring as tiny seedlings. It is hard to recognise at this time of year so we are asking for sightings from summer 2011 or 2012 to provide a starting point for the project”.

Himalayan balsam was introduced to the UK from Northern India in 1839 and has been amazingly successful in the wet British climate. Himalayan balsam is particularly abundant on river banks and is present at a number of the locations on the River Laver and Kex Beck and can displace native plants, contribute to bank erosion and prevent recreational use of the river.

If you have recently spotted Himalayan Balsam on the River Laver or on Kex Beck or would like to volunteer to help with balsam survey and control this spring and summer then please contact Kelly Harmar at kelly.harmar@harrogate.gov.uk or on 01423 556035.