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Himalayan Balsam control along the River Seph

Himalayan Balsam control along the River SephHimalayan balsam is a plant native to the Himalayas and was introduced to Britain by Victorian plant hunters. The first record of it being planted in gardens is 1839.

It can be identified by a pink, slipper-shaped flower which has a sickly sweet smell. It has a hollow stem and can grow up to two metres tall. The exploding seed pods can scatter seeds up to seven metres from the parent plant.

It's often found growing along riverbanks where it rapidly outcompetes our native plants, forming large, dense patches. The seeds remain viable in watercourses and those transported downstream can establish new colonies. The plant is annual so it dies back completely in winter, leaving riverbanks without any stabilising vegetation, making them susceptible to erosion. With more water run-off into rivers the sediments reduce water quality, and spawning areas of salmon and other fish can be smothered and the risk of flooding increases.

A bit of background

Our project began in 2008 following concern over the large amount of Himalayan balsam found along the lower sections of the River Rye. However, as the plant's seeds can be spread via watercourses we needed to start tackling the balsam right at the top of the catchment and work downstream. This meant starting on the River Seph which begins at Chop Gate in Bilsdale and is the main river that flows into the River Rye. The River Seph in turn is formed from the confluence of Raisdale Beck and Bilsdale Beck.

Getting it under control

A survey was carried out in 2008 to map out where the balsam was growing, then in 2009 the control work began on two tributaries - Raisdale Beck and Bilsdale Beck. Local contractors were hired to do the bulk of the control work through a combination of strimming and hand pulling, the local community and volunteers have also helped.

By 2012 we had covered 21km (13.5 miles) of riverbank, taking control work right up to the confluence of the River Seph with the River Rye. We also carried out repeat control work which is necessary due to the presence of a seedbank in the soil (seeds can remain viable for approximately 18 months) and the varying growth rate of the plant. Control work also began along an embankment north of the village of Hawnby which was found to be abundant with balsam. National Park Volunteers also tackled stretches of riverbank on the Rye in Duncombe Park National Nature Reserve, working with Natural England.

The Sweet Smell of Success

The project is now in its sixth year and we are delighted our efforts are proving to be worthwhile. Very little balsam is now being found in those areas previously controlled, and in some areas the balsam has been eradicated.

This year, 2013, we were able to extend the control work onto the River Rye and tackle the stretch from the Seph confluence as far down as Rievaulx Bridge, a distance of about six km (four miles).

Next year we will continue our work on the Rye and extend the control area all the way to Helmsley and the National Park boundary. Hopefully the small amount of balsam left in the Seph catchment can be hand pulled by local volunteers.

More Info here

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Gaining or Losing the Plot

Gaining or Losing the PlotReader Submission by Bill Thornton

About twelve months ago, I was invited down to have a look at the Live Well, Eat Well allotment run by Pendle Leisure Trust at Hodge House Allotments, Nelson.

Upon arrival at the allotments, the first thing that grabbed me was the sheer size of the operation. The area is taking up by more than a hundred self contained allotments. Each allotment has its own unique character with a variable amount of sheds, caravans, polytunnels and greenhouses adorning each plot. One allotment in particular housed a homemade greenhouse constructed entirely out of recycled plastic bottles and it soon become apparent that life in allotment world is very much waste-not, want-not. An old bath or toilet can quickly be transformed in to a floral masterpiece or strawberry haven. My colleague Chris and I quickly quenched our thirsts with some wonderful ice cold Elderflower juice which we were presented with and at that point we decided that we wanted a slice of life on the allotment. Upon making enquiries we were informed that there was a large waiting list but our application would be considered should any plots become available (highly unlikely as waiting lists across the country are growing by the day) then in May of this year we got the call….

Due to work/life commitments, Chris and I had already decided that we were going to share at an allotment as spare time was of the essence and our prior knowledge was limited (I had previously tended to a small blueberry bush and Chris had helped his mum pull up a few onions from her garden!) After having a little tour of the available allotments, we ended up selecting a plot that appeared to need less work and was south-facing to maximise the power of the sun. We soon realised that this year was all about preparation for next year. We have missed the majority of the growing season so our intention was (or still is) to prepare the land, fix the fences, get the necessary greenhouses and polytunnels in place and maintain the leaky caravan. Now bearing in mind that our allotment had been dormant for about three years, you can probably imagine the size and depth of the weeds and grass. We purchased a petrol strimmer (the lack of electricity on the allotment is something that you quickly get used to) and Chris got to work with the powerful beast and soon revealed five beds that had previously been constructed as well as a pathway that went right down the middle of the allotment.

My main role was now to fork the soil, removing the myriad dock leaves and assorted weeds and prepare a bed fit for planting. We had been donated several plants and seedlings so decided to plant them and hope for the best. Chris was now concentrating his efforts on the deconstruction of the chicken coop that we had been left with. Our allotment neighbours had informed us that the previous tenants had been contacted by the local RSPCA and subsequently evicted due to the condition of the would-be egg making factory and its inhabitants. This monstrosity of a shack made with corrugated iron, kitchen cabinet doors and any other bits of wood was proving a real nightmare for Chris but he eventually got through it, separating the good wood from the rotten. It was now time to plant for the first time. We were both excited at this prospect because at the end of the day that was why we were there. Our fellow allotmenteers busied themselves with pigeons, chickens and bees but our intention is primarily to grow. After only a couple of months in the business I can definitely see the benefits of having an allotment. It is a ‘safe haven’, somewhere to go to reflect, take away the stress of modern life and more importantly quite literally see the fruit of your labours! I suppose only time will tell whether all the effort is worth it or if it’s easier to simply visit the fruit and veg aisle of the local supermarket.

To be continued…

How to Make an Entrance

How to Make an EntranceThere’s a well-known saying ‘First impressions count’, although after saying that there is another well used phrase ‘Never judge a book by its cover’. Which ever school of thought you belong to, if you’re houseproud your hallway is often the first thing that people see when visiting your home. If your house is reasonably styled and relatively tidy but your hallway resembles a scene from ‘The War of the Worlds’ then check out these tips on how to make an entrance. Hallways aren’t always high on the list of decorating priorities but don’t underestimate how important it is to get it right. The most important aspect is to make your hall as clutter-free, bright and inviting as possible.

Choosing a hallway colour scheme

A dark hallway says all the wrong things about your home. Use colour to make the entrance as light and appealing as possible. If your hallway is narrow or small, neutrals invariably work best. Don’t be tempted to use a dark colour beneath a dado rail as it will make the walls look shorter and the space feel claustrophobic. The general advice is to steer clear of dark and bold colours however, as with all the best rules, there are exceptions. If your house is a large listed building or a grand period home, a deep traditional red or green will enhance the pedigree of the building and add enormous impact.

Maximise natural light in a small hallway

If your hall has a low ceiling, uplighters will give the impression of greater height. If you have lofty, high ceilings they’re perfect for displaying feature lighting. Suspend globes of light from the stairwell or go for a luxe look with a beautiful chandelier.
Maximise natural light wherever possible. If your hallway is dark, a solid wood front door won’t do you any favours. Could a glazier install glass panels to allow the light to flow? Alternatively, glazed interior doors will allow the light to bounce into your hallway. In smaller hallways, get rid of bulky window treatments or curtains around the doors; replace any dark chunky furniture with sleek, lighter alternatives. Reflective glossy white paint and hanging a mirror will reflect light, creating a more spacious feel in a small space.

Stylish hallway storage solutions

If there’s a free corner in your hallway, consider a freestanding coat stand. The beauty of freestanding designs is that you can also slot umbrellas and walking sticks into the central area. It’s also a good idea to have some chic padded hangers available. If you’re short on space, your best bet is to hang coats from the wall. Choose a contemporary metal or plastic coat rack or go traditional with wood or a distressed paint finish. Coat racks with overhead shelves are invaluable for ensuring hats don’t get battered in the morning melée. Alternatively, create your own hanging storage system by hanging all manner of funky hooks to create a quirky and abstract display of postcards, pictures, keys and coats.

Choosing hallway flooring design ideas

If you have floorboards, sand and paint or varnish them, then place matching runners on the stairs and hall floor to link the two spaces and provide a practical non-slip surface, too. A stylish stripe that echoes the colour of your floor varnish always looks good and draws the eye in so your hallway appears much longer than it really is. Painted floorboards in your hallway give the impression of greater floor surface by painting the skirtings the same colour as the floor. Be warned however, that floorboards painted a light colour can be particularly high-maintenance. If you only have a small hallway and are a talented DIY-er, you might want to buy individual floor tiles to create a pretty patterned floor. This is a great idea if you prefer to leave walls plain and add interest elsewhere. Include a border of simple tiles to create a stylish runner or rug effect. Feature flooring is a good way to ‘create an impression’. Flooring needs to be durable. If you have a long hallway, a runner is very eye catching and a great way to inject colour while colourful and/or striped carpet will instantly enliven a hallway.”

Choosing hallway furniture

Only store the absolute essentials in your hallway. Anything other than the bare minimum will get in the way of the morning scramble for bags, shoes and coats. A narrow console table is a good choice (one with a curved front edge will avoid those bruised hips!) but it can easily become a depository for drinks, newspapers and the morning’s post, so beware of clutter! The slimline console table is a popular choice. It’s ideal for the telephone, photographs, letters, keys etc. The classic incarnation is semi-circular with slimline drawers and elegantly carved legs.

Don’t neglect the stairs

If you’re decorating your hallway you may as well take the time to give your stairs some TLC as well. How is the carpet looking? With so much footfall, it may start to show signs or wear quicker than other areas of the house. When investing in a new one, choose hardwearing so it will look better for longer. If you have wooden stairs, you could add some colour and interest by painting a stair runner. This is a great contemporary look but be aware uncarpeted flooring is louder as there’s nothing to absorb the sound of footsteps.

I’ve got a Little List…

I’ve got a Little List…At this time of year we are feeling fired up with the coming of warmer weather and longer days so there are many tasks we feel we can do but we should focus on the items that need doing which is where our lists that we made towards the end of summer last year come in really handy. If this is not something your generally do, towards the end of the summer start making a note of as much information as you can; what is looking good, what doesn’t look good, what needs repairing, where is the colour in the garden, what features or fixtures make up the garden (e.g. lawn, patio, shrub border, rockery etc), what is overgrown, what is in good shape. These are a few examples of what you can make a note of but there is much more depending on your garden. Next, make an additional list of what needs sorting out in the different parts or features of the garden. This could be pruning, weeding, crowded plants, no colour, repairs to paths, walls etc, lawn shape, murky pond, or many other issues that could be making your garden less enjoyable. These lists do not have to be exhaustive at the moment as there will be more to add throughout the year just as long as there is enough to work on for now.

The next stage is to start ordering these tasks into times of year they can be done. If you are an experienced gardener you may be able to do this. However if you are not sure or you are a novice gardener then do not worry. For those of you who are not sure what can be done when, there's plenty of advice on-line. Once you have an idea of what can be done at this time you can choose jobs according to the time you have available and leave the other tasks for another time. This is particularly important as we are moving into a new season and there are many different tasks that need doing but we have just had autumn and winter where we will have got through a few or many items on our lists we previously made. 

Now then, as well as using our management lists we can also look at the time of year for how to tackle the garden as this is a great preparation time to build on the organising we carried out in winter but also start getting the garden looking its best for spring and the coming season. So this is a particularly good time for moving plants – mainly small shrubs and any size of perennial – which means we should look around the garden and where we have altered structures in the garden such as paths, retaining walls, border shapes and edges or the actual layout. There may be plants that are now badly placed or are just too close together. This is a great time to move these badly placed plants into a new position, perhaps in the same border or maybe in another area of the garden and this will happen throughout the life of your garden so it’s worth getting to grips with this concept. It is also particularly useful to develop this skill for plants that are not well, as this could be due to position in terms of environment (wind, shade etc) or soil type not being right for the sickly plant. A move to a different position can (and has often proved for me in my gardens) make for a healthier and transformed plant. Next we can look at where we can gain knowledge and ideas for our own gardens. At this time of year it’s great to go walking in the surrounding areas or even further afield and this is where we can gain inspiration – from nature itself – as gardens are of course our own patch of nature that we decide how to control. So what better than to go out, get some fresh air and look around at all the fantastic possibilities that can be had in the garden? This could be the dappled shade of a woodland, the rugged scenery of a limestone pavement, or just the gentle tranquillity of our hedgerows and meadows. So get out there and enjoy the beauty of our countryside while you gather inspiration for your garden.


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