News & Events

Coming up…

To add your events and activities here, and have us promote them, do get in touch via projects@wyevalleyaonb.org.uk

 

TBC mid-July – Balsam Bashing Bonanza at Brockweir – similar to last year we will be organising a series of public balsam bashes to stop the incursion of balsam into the species-rich wildflower meadows and woodlands around Brockweir. These events are funded by Severn Trent’s Boost for Biodiversity fund. Details to follow. We hope you will join us!


Sun 10 July 2022 – The AONB Unit’s WISP team will be joining WYE JULY for the day at Lower Green, Monmouth. Contact: friendsofthelowerwye@gmail.com 


Early August 2022 – American skunk cabbage control work commences, coordinated by the AONB Unit and carried out by qualified local contractors. We now have over 25 different sites in the sub-catchments of Brockweir/Hewelsfield, Cleddon and Whitebrook. If you have American skunk cabbage on your land and would like support to deal with it please complete our Report It form or, if you are the landowner, please fill out the Landowner consent form, and hopefully we will be able to add it to our August control programme.  For more info. contact: Nickie Moore projects@wyevalleyaonb.org.uk


Early September 2022 – Year 4 Japanese knotweed control programme commences, coordinated by the AONB Unit and carried out by qualified local contractors. We have over 120 different sites between Lydbrook and Tintern now listed in our treatment programme, so we really have our work cut out trying to reach all these sites within a very short timeframe and working around the weather and tides.  If you have Japanese knotweed on your land and need support to control it please complete our Report It form or, if you are the landowner, Landowner consent form, and hopefully we will be able to add it to our September control programme. 


Wed 15 February 2023 – Wye Valley AONB Unit talk about Invasive Non-Native Species in the Wye Valley AONB (what they’re doing and what you can do) – St Briavels WI


 

What we’ve been up to…

Sunday 19 June 2022Special Balsam Bash with Operation Raleigh Alumni 

What a fantastic Sunday working with Operation Raleigh Alumni to clear invasive Himalayan balsam from a private wooded enclosure above The Hudnalls National Nature Reserve and Wye Valley Woodlands Special Area of Conservation. We pulled up around 3,500 plants, preventing the potential spread of up to 6 million balsam seeds through these precious woodlands, and had a lot of fun too! We’re hopeful this will be the first of many AONB Unit-Operation Raleigh Alumni collaborations. 

A big thank you to the all the Alumni, the 3 landowners, Natural England and Brockweir Community Shop for their support. This event was funded through Severn Trent’s Boost for Biodiversity Fund. 

Monday 6 June 2022 – ‘Give Cherry Laurel the Chop’ campaign

June saw the start of our awareness-raising campaign to inform people about the problem with Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) – still sold in garden centres and often the ‘go to’ plant for people who want to quickly fill a gap in a hedge or screen their homes. What’s not on the plant’s label is how easily it can spread from your garden into the wild and cause real problems for local flora and fauna, and potentially for your neighbour too! We are recommending that home/land owners give their Cherry laurel the chop to stop it spreading into the wild, and, if hedging or screening is needed, choose instead from the many non-invasive alternatives with wonderful wildlife benefits.

At the same time as this information went out across our social media channels, our contractors on the ground started the mammoth task of controlling the cherry laurel in Cleddon Shoots Woodland SSSI above Llandogo. Laurel has spread unchecked through the woodlands there, with a very dense growth within the steep, rocky gorge, necessitating technical roped access. The team have stem-bored and injected herbicide into the laurel, leaving it to die back and become standing deadwood.

This work complements the extensive Cherry laurel management that Natural Resources Wales are carrying out around the local forest estate.

Contact: Nickie Moore projects@wyevalleyaonb.org.uk for more information.

20 & 28 May 2022 – Balsam Training Days with WaREN and Wye & Usk Foundation

We were delighted to team up with WaREN and the Wye and Usk Foundation to run these training events for local residents and community groups. The days kick-started with three talks illustrating the work underway at a national, regional and local level including what we as individuals can do to stop the spread of Invasive Non-Native Species. After lunch (thank you to the Brockweir and Hewelsfield Community Shop for the beautiful cakes!), we met on site for a briefing and to get hands on and pull up the balsam. At Old Station Tintern we estimate we pulled up approx. 3,000 balsam plants, and at Llandogo, which was a more awkward site with lots of bramble, we pulled around 2,000. This means we’ve reduced the potential seed-bank from those plants by a minimum of 4 million seeds! (each plant produces between 800 and 2,000 seeds). 

It was great to have documentary-maker Emma Drabble with us, capturing both the action through the days and the attendees thoughts and perspectives.

Many thanks to all the those who turned up to listen and take part. Chatting with the groups, we’re confident the day will lead to more community-led balsam bashing within the Wye Valley AONB and further afield; the Friends of the Lower Wye (FoLW) are keen to carry on the fight at Old Station Tintern, the Llandogo Balsam Bashers are keen to keep ‘bashing’, and one attendee from Pontypool plans to set up a volunteer group to control balsam in his local park. All are now armed with our practical Balsam Action Toolkit. 

May 2022 – #INNSWeek and Balsam Action Toolkit launch

From 16 – 22 May we joined the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat and projects and initiatives from across GB to shine the spotlight on invasive species. We launched our Balsam Action Toolkit (Click here to download your copy) and we focussed upon raising public awareness and understanding, posting a range of articles across our social media channels. One appeal invited reports of Japanese knotweed, to increase our knowledge of the distribution and help to plan this Autumn’s knotweed control schedule. We promoted community-led balsam pulling days and held our own successful ‘Balsam Training Day’ in Tintern Village Hall and Old Station Tintern (see above). 

May 2022 – American Skunk Cabbage trial and filming day

A successful day filming and carrying out American skunk cabbage trials at two sites in the Brockweir valley with documentary-maker Emma Drabble and INNS contractor Alan Martin from Nature Conservation Services (NCS).   

Photos courtesy of Emma Drabble and Wye Valley AONB team.

Archenfield Community Environment Day, 26 March 2022

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday for the Archenfield Community Environment Day and the AONB Team had such a productive day at our WISP stand. We heard from many who were dismayed about the spread of Himalayan balsam around the local catchment, and we grasped the opportunity to gauge opinion about our newly developing Balsam Action Toolkit.  Feedback was incredibly positive and enthusiastic for this new resource, which we’re designing specifically to help grass-roots groups to get active in tackling this pest plant.

We’re aiming to launch the toolkit this April, so watch this space!

 

Ellie at the Wye Invasive Species Project (WISP) stand

‘The Wye in Crisis’ – evening talk with the St. James and Bartonsham Community Association 

Our Lower Wye Project Officer, Nickie Moore, presented ‘Tackling INNS – the what, why, when and how’ at this public evening event. Click here for proceedings on YouTube and Nickie’s presentation is at 26mins. 

Summer 2021 – WISP at Brockweir

Our aims were to join local communities together at Brockweir to bring Himalayan balsam under better control on the main River Wye in Brockweir, to stop it encroaching further into adjacent woodlands and species-rich meadows. We also wanted to raise awareness and demonstrate how easily balsam can be managed. Plus community INNS mapping and ground-truthing records. 

We met on four dates through August, with two balsam pulling sessions each day. The ‘WISP HQ’ for the four days was the Moravian Chapel School Room near the riverbank in Brockweir. INNS information, toilets, wash hand facilities and refreshments were available through the day here, plus maps for the community mapping exercise and landowner/resident consent (access and INNS control) forms. 

Photos courtesy of SARA and Wye Valley AONB team.

Here are some facts and figures from the events:

Time & area covered

  • 4 days of community balsam bashing
  • 5ha of river bank was cleared of balsam alongside the Offa’s Dyke National Trail.
  • 6ha of semi-natural wildflower meadows and semi-improved pasture balsam-controlled by hand pulling and machinery.

Volunteer-power and new connections

33 volunteers took part in Himalayan balsam pulling over 4 days in Brockweir, including:

  • 6 volunteers from SARA’s amphibious team over 2 days.
  • 8 volunteers made sandwiches at Brockweir & Hewelsfield Community shop.
  • 2 volunteer from the Moravian Chapel gave support by providing the ‘WISP HQ’, helping to contact local landowners and spreading the word.
  • 3 volunteers put up posters and helped spread the word.
  • 6 landowners signed agreements to allow access to their land.

1 new volunteer group (8+ people) has established in Llandogo. This group is now being supported to map the extent of balsam around their community and they will commence pulling up plants next summer in their local catchments.

Several members of the public stopped and chatted, thanked volunteers or dropped into the ‘WISP HQ’ to find out more information about species and local action.

Two new local INNS contractors made contact with advice and offers of support.

A huge THANK YOU to WISP supporters and funders! We were supported by SARA (Severn Area Recue Assoc.) and a big thank you to Richard and the team for helping out. We would also like to thank the committee from the Moravian Chapel, Sue Groves and Mary Harris who hosted us. And of course a thank you to Severn Trent who are helping to fund WISP (on the English side of the lower Wye Valley) through the Boost for Biodiversity fund.

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