Himalayan balsam is a present nuisance in the Ullswater valley and in recent years volunteers from a number of agencies, working in co-operation with the Lake District National Park Authority, have had some success in dealing with the problem. 2007 saw probably the first decline in the spread of the weed in and around Glenridding and the LDNPA is rather hoping that with a big push, this year will see the problem almost completely resolved in this locality.
Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is a relative of the houseplant commonly known as Busy Lizzie. It is known by a wide variety of common names, including Indian balsam, policeman's helmet and jumping jack. Growing to a height of more than 2 metres, it is the tallest annual flower in Britain, producing clusters of purplish pink helmet-shaped flowers. These are followed by seed pods that open explosively when ripe, shooting their seeds up to 7 metres away. Each plant can produce up to 2500 seeds. Whilst an attractive plant, it really has no other virtue and, where it now grows wild, is generally regarded as an alien invasive weed. Introduced to the UK in 1839, it is now naturalised, especially alongside water and increasingly in waste places.
Preliminary surveying in the Glenridding area has shown some very promising signs as a result of last year's work, notably the very few plants this year occupying the north bank of the Glenridding Beck from the Gillside campsite upstream and the almost complete absence from the Mires Beck tributary. However there are still areas of widespread infestation that will need another big effort. This year supervised work will take place on Mondays and Fridays until late August.
As well as the Glenridding area, there is work to be done on the other side of the lake in the vicinity of Swarthbeck and along the lake shore southwest of the OBMS boathouse in Gowbarrow Bay . Although the latter is a fairly satisfying site to work on the priority must be to attack the infestations from the highest point up any watercourse that they have infected.
In Patterdale there is a serious infestation south of the Patterdale Hotel (in ground accessible from the car parking further-on south east at Grid Ref 3973 1582) and to the east, alongside watercourses that empty into the Goldrill Beck below the bridge to Rooking as well as on the east bank of the Goldrill Beck. Because there is not a lot of volunteer time available, National Park volunteers will turn to this area after the work in Glenridding. That may not be this year! So any other efforts in the Patterdale area will be very welcome.
Removal of the plant is simple and straightforward. Please feel free to join the work. Don’t feel that you need to stay all day. Each day we will operate until about 4 pm. Wellington or waterproof boots, waterproof clothing and gloves are recommended.
Someone will be at the Glenridding Tourist Information Centre at 10am to co-ordinate the work. Late arrivals at Glenridding Tourist Information Centre (TIC) should enquire where to go from the TIC staff.
Further information from Tony Corbett
Tel number 01931 712293 mobile 07771922730.
Dense stands suffocate other plants so when it dies away in the winter, river banks are left bare and more liable to erosion.
The flowers produce copious amounts of nectar and draw pollinating insects in preference to native plants so reducing pollination and hence survival of the latter.
The black, spherical seeds are about 2 to 3mm across and can travel along waterways to infest new areas, even germinating under water.
It tolerates low light levels and, in turn, tends to shade out other vegetation, impoverishing habitats.
Infestation on the north bank of the Glenridding Beck in 2007 where surviving seeds will be carried down to Ullswater and spread along the lake shore