Play your part in stopping invasive Himalayan balsam taking hold in Leighton Buzzard

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has launched its annual Pull Snap Stomp campaign which aims to stamp out the spread of Himalayan balsam along river and canal banks during June and July.

IWA has been told there is a lot of the plant growing in the Leighton Buzzard area along the banks of the Grand Union Canal, especially to the south of town, and probably in the vicinity of the Grove Lock pub.

Himalayan Balsam. Photo by Rupert Smedley

Himalayan Balsam. Photo by Rupert Smedley

Himalayan balsam is a non-native, invasive plant species that can be found along the banks of the UK’s waterways. It grows so quickly that it crowds out native wildflowers and takes over large swathes of ground.

Growing up to three metres in height, it makes an impressive sight with its reddish stems and pink-purple flowers, but the plant has no root stock, so once it dies back, the ground is susceptible to erosion, especially during the wet winter months.

Himalayan balsam stems are easy to pull out and leave the ground with a very pleasing ‘pop’ which makes it a fun family activity. IWA is seeking volunteers both young and old to help remove the plants from towpaths before it has a chance to go to seed and spread its stranglehold even further. Volunteers are being asked to take just five minutes out of their walk to PULL up the stems, SNAP off the root and STOMP down on it to speed up the rotting process.

IWA is asking members of the public to either sign up for an online information pack in order to pull up Himalayan balsam on a family walk or by joining a local IWA branch Balsam Bash work party.

Himalayan balsam beside Alison Smedley

Himalayan balsam beside Alison Smedley

To see where the Balsam Bashes are running or to request an information pack, visit www.waterways.org.uk/himalayanbalsam. Balsam Bashes will take place during late June/early July before the plant goes to seed.

More information on this non-native, invasive species can also be found on the IWA website at www.waterways.org.uk/himalayanbalsam.

If you find Himalayan balsam and pull any up, please post a photo on social media using #PullSnapStomp.