Balsam bashing with a very special visitor

What better way to spend 30 Days Wild than helping rid one of our reserves of the dreaded Himalayan balsam, and having a close wildlife encounter in the process?
Himalayan Balsam

This invasive plant was introduced from the Himalayas in 1839 for its pretty pink flowers. People didn’t realise how badly the balsam would affect our own ecosystem, and the plants quickly spun out of control. Himalayan balsam grows fast and spreads incredibly quickly, choking our native flora and altering the habitat for all kinds of other species.

Himalayan balsam has hanging green seedpods that, when touched, explode to disperse their seeds. This means balsam needs to be removed before it has chance to flower and produce pods, so Team Marketing headed to Brockholes for a ‘Balsam Bashing Ice Cream Party!’

Victoria, Clare, Alice and I met up with Jenny Reddell, Brockholes’ Myplace Volunteer Coordinator, pulled on our gloves and set about ridding Boilton Wood of balsam.

After a spell of rain, the soil was nice and soft and the balsam didn’t put up a fight; the stems came free with their roots intact. We snapped each stem at the lowest growing node, ensuring it couldn’t re-root, and cast them aside into a pile to rot down.

It wasn’t long before I got into a rhythm and discovered that balsam bashing was actually really therapeutic, and my quick trip out of the office turned into a mindful nature moment. But this important conservation session was about to get even more exciting.

Roe Deer

I waded through a tangle of nettles to a dense patch of brambles and logs interwoven with some really big balsam stems. These larger plants were more difficult to yank free, and I had to stick my arms right into the prickly tangle to grip them near the roots. Before I could pull there was a rustling next to me, then the back of a head and two petite, upright ears appeared.

“Oh how lovely,” I thought. “A rabbit… or is it a young hare?”

The animal stood up and started trotting away, white spots dotting dark chestnut fur that shone in the shafts of sunlight pouring through the trees. A roe deer fawn – I couldn’t believe it. I stood open-mouthed as this tiny, perfect creature turned to look at me, confused about whether to run away or stay where its mother had left it. Mother roes will leave their fawns tucked up in vegetation for hours at a time while they go out foraging, returning to suckle them throughout the day, so if you do find a fawn on its own, it hasn’t been abandoned. Leave it well alone as its mother will be close by.

When I eventually managed to snap myself out of the shock I looked around and found that no-one was looking my way. I had to share this with someone. As the fawn scampered further away I snapped a picture and went to show the rest of the team, but it didn’t move too far. Jenny gave a shout as she spotted the fawn disappearing into the undergrowth. We all watched it look tentatively back at us before vanishing, no doubt waiting for us to head back to Brockholes’ floating Visitor Village for ice-cream before it bedded down again. What a day.

Balsam Bashing Team