More volunteers needed to help bash the balsam

Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan Balsam - Credit: Archant

Organisers behind an effort to clear the River Sid of an invasive weed have warned it will take years to solve the problem unless more people lend a hand.

The Sidbashers group was set up by Sidmouth in Bloom (SiB) last year to clear the valley’s waterways of Himalayan balsam.

And although hard work from the small team of volunteers has seen progress around Sidbury Manor and Woolbrook, the scale of the task is too great for the group of 10 regulars alone.

SiB chairman Lynette Talbot said: “It will take a number of years to totally eradicate it, but we can do a good clear-up over three years if we have enough people to help.

“It is a labour intensive job because we have to do it all by hand – we can’t use chemicals because there are native plants underneath the balsam.

“The job needs a lot of manpower , but anyone can do it because it’s easy to pull the balsam out.”

The weed, which is recognisable by its distinctive pink flowers, can grow up to 10 feet tall, spreads quickly and easily shades out other native species.

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The task of clearing it is made more time consuming because volunteers will have to revisit cleared areas next year to ensure they have left nothing behind and no extra seeds have sprouted.

Each plant can produce up to 800 seeds, which are carried down rivers and can sprout once they wash up.

The Sidbashers have been out in the Sid Valley for the past three months, and spent a few hours each Tuesday removing the weed.

Lynette added: “We have made good progress around Sidbury Manor, but we’ll only be able to go out a few more times this year.

“We plan to start next year in the first week of June.”

She said she hopes to recruit the help of groups including the scouts and Sidmouth Rugby Club, but assistance from anyone else would be very welcome.

To help, contact Lynette on 01395 578081 or email