Saturday, 25 July 2015

Hempstead Meadow - Pulling the Balsam.

A couple of years ago, I spent a couple of mornings pulling Himalayan Balsam from the Hempstead Meadow nature reserve, run by Uckfield Town Council.  I thought we had done a pretty thorough job until the next time I travelled by train and saw a band of pink at the far side of the reserve. At the time, it felt like it was taunting me.

Himalayan Balsam - pretty but invasive.
You know what they say about revenge? It's a dish best served cold. Today I, another volunteer and the Town Ranger, removed significant quantities of Balsam from two good sized areas of the reserve.  I was particularly pleased that I created spaces for seed from the pretty, frothy Meadowsweet to fall into.

Meadowsweet (centre) and Black Poplar (left back).
I knew that the Black Poplars (see back left of photo) that grow in the reserve are rare and special but I didn't know that they were such tricky breeders. Our knowledgeable ranger, Geoff, explained need a male and a female tree close enough together for pollination, then the seed must fall into ground that is "anerobic" because it has been flooded. With modern farming methods, there are few places that meet these conditions.

He also pointed out the different types of willowherb in the reserve. There is Rose-bay Willowherb near the railway, some Great Willowherb near the stickleback bridge and, new to me, Hoary Willowherb near the places where we were working.

Pink coloured Rose-bay Willowherb near the railway.
The time just whizzed by. While I was at the reserve, I saw several butterflies including colourful commas, pretty little moths and all sorts of intriguing insects.

A weird little Tortoise sheildbug.
As a gardener, I'm not a big fan of molluscs but I was rather taken with the golden coloured snails I found in the Balsam.

Marsh snail.
When I had had enough, I pottered off home, stopping briefly to check out the spot where I had previously seen a stickleback nest. I didn't see any fish this time but there was a variety of flowers including yellow loosestrife.

Yellow loosestrife near "stickleback" bridge.

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