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Bramley balsam bashers: ‘Help us save our bluebell woods’

Do you value Bramley Fall Woods? A campaign to save the historic woodland from an ‘alien’ plant invader has been launched in a bid to preserve the area’s famous bluebell woods from being over-run by Himalayan Balsam.

A ‘balsam’ bash is being held this weekend, with Bramley people being urged to attend – Roland Cross of the Newlay and Whitecote Residents Association (NAWRA) takes up the story…

Before the last Bramley balsam bash: Plants were 6ft tall.

Himalayan Balsam has rapidly become one of the UK’s most invasive weed species, colonising river banks, waste ground and damp woodlands like Bramley Fall Woods.

It successfully competes with native plant species for space, light, nutrients and pollinators and excludes other plant growth, thereby reducing native biodiversity.

In the case of Bramley Fall Woods this includes threatening the delicate balance between bluebells, ferns, bramble and trees.

As an annual, Himalayan balsam dies back in the winter, and where the plant grows in riparian systems this can leave river banks bare of vegetation and liable to erosion. Dead plant material can also enter the river, increasing the risk of flooding.

Help Save our Bluebell Wood in Bramley Fall

Like most introduced plant species Himalayan balsam arrived in the UK without any of the natural enemies that keep the plant in check in its native range.


Traditional control methods are currently inadequate in controlling Himalayan balsam in the UK. This is often because the plant grows in inaccessible areas or sites of high conservation status where chemical control is not an option.

After the bash: Volunteers cleared the balsam in Bramley Fall Woods

Get involved in our campaign

Therefore NAWRA decided earlier this year to start a campaign of slowly eradicating the balsam from Bramley Fall Woods.

This is a medium-term project as it is important to repeat the work two or three years in succession to eradicate the balsam in any one area. We have organised two ‘Himalayan Balsam Bashing’ events in June and July which is the period shortly before the plant produces seeds and is easiest to pull up.

Next meeting is 10am on Saturday, 1st July – meet at the changing rooms car park on Pollard Lane.

We have had 17 volunteers and in total we have cleared the area of about half a football pitch.


‘Now is the time to help’

If you want to help ‘Bash the Balsam’, now is the time to help.

When you are walking in the woods, pull up the balsam and toss it into the undergrowth (don’t leave it on the path).

You’ll find the shallow roots mean it comes up easily and is quite enjoyable. Be sure you know what Himalayan Balsam looks like and wear gloves in case you catch a bramble. Also, please get in touch if you want to be kept informed by email.

If you are interested in learning more about the subject, you can read how scientists are tackling the problem.  Many thanks to Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International for the information.


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