Nicky Davies ecologist with the National Park is looking to put together a programme of work to further the eradication work at Cwm Bwchel in 2018. Would you be able to help recruit volunteer groups or point us in the direction of groups to assist us to be able to continue this work?
Cwm Bwchel is located in the Black Mountains, overlooking the Llanthony valley. The narrow path up the cwm leads onto Bal Bach, part of the Black Mountains SSSI. The path is steep sided, running approximately 50m parallel to a stream which is flowing throughout the year. The path is part of the Beacons Way – a long distance linear walking route that runs through the Brecon Beacons National Park from east to west. The habitat either side of the footpath leading up the hill is a combination of bracken and moorland heath, scattered with blackthorn, birch and rowan trees. It is lightly grazed by sheep and occasionally welsh mountain ponies. The route is popular with walkers and receives considerable footfall year round.
Himalayan balsam is growing on either side of the footpath. Due to the steep gradient of the narrow path and land either side, walkers are knocking the tall plants, causing the seed pods to explode as people attempt to navigate their way up the hill. This in turn is encouraging the plant to spread onto the hillside.
In 2017, the focus of the work was along the sides of the footpath to widen the path and prevent walkers from knocking mature plants.
The work would not necessarily require any specialist skills although some cutting with long-handled scythes would be useful if people are trained in using them. The bulk of the work would be pulling up Himalayan balsam.
It takes approximately 15-20 minutes on foot to get to the site along a footpath to access the works area which is steep in places. Terrain in the proposed works location is on a gradient and unsteady underfoot although once you are at the location, people generally stay in the one spot and focus on pulling up plants in that area. Once plants are pulled, they are not taken off site, they are left to decompose in situ.
All volunteers will be shown what is required of them and a BBNP member of staff will be present at all times to supervise and assist.
We have full landowner consent and support to undertake this work.
We are looking at setting balsam bashing dates that tie in with the plant growth so I can you know these in due course.
Contact her Nicola.Davies@beacons-npa.gov.uk