Offensive against invasive plants on River Esk

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THE Galloway Fisheries Trust has been granted funding of £3,575 to help eradicate non-native invasive plants from the River Esk and its tributaries.

Annandale and Eskdale area committee approved a lesser amount after the trust bid for £7,150.

It has also received a £17,750 grant from the Cumbria Community Foundation using money generated by the Beck Burn windfarm in Longtown.

The funding will pay for staff time, volunteer expenses, equipment and herbicides, as well as educating schoolchildren about the dangers of such plants and get youngsters involved it tackling the issue.

Nigel Pattison, grants and donor services officer at Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “The funding will enable the trust to expand the project and cover a greater area, using volunteers to eradicate the invasive species. By involving schools, it will also raise awareness of the dangers of toxic plants while promoting the environment.”

The trust is undertaking a project to rid the Border Esk of Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam which are now spreading along the river and its tributaries.

Japanese knotweed is particularly ferocious because it will grow through tarmac and concrete, invading foundations and walls of buildings.

Giant hogweed is dangerous to touch and will burn skin and cause blisters which can recur in sunlight.

The project intends to control these plant species around the river with the help of volunteers.

It has been designed to raise awareness of invasive species and undertake a co-ordinated programme of control.

After community concerns were raised in 2013, residents and the trust surveyed most of the riverbanks for these plants in 2014.

This allowed a control programme to be formulated, although further monitoring and surveys will need to be ongoing.

A network of volunteers has been created through the work completed to date and this project will continue to expand this group through work this summer.

Controlling these plants will benefit biodiversity, riverside access routes, angling opportunities, the economy and health.

The trust is working closely with the angling club and they have supported the work the trust has done to date.

A spokeswoman said: "They are acting as our eyes and ears so we are made aware of all known areas of invasive palnts along accessible stretches of the Border Esk.

"We are also in talks with the Langholm Initiative and are planning on working alongside them during this project to use the volunteer group they have.

"This year we will complete community training and control days and plan to engage with schools in Langholm and Canonbie to deliver an education project about identification and bio-security.

"This could also act as a public health benefit because giant hogweed is a big problem along the Esk and if children are aware of the dangers of this plant, they are more likely to avoid them and notify adults.

"This would reduce the chance of accidental burns and help us to locate any plants which have not yet been found."

In 2015 the volunteers and the trust began control work of these invasive plants and this was continued in 2016. To fully control these plants to eradication, consecutive years of control are needed. This application will support year three of the control element of the project.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 3:42PM
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