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Volunteers wanted to help clear Giant Hogweed and other invasive plant species in Forres area


By Garry McCartney

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Flowering hogweed on the Moray Coastal Trail off Waterford Road.
Flowering hogweed on the Moray Coastal Trail off Waterford Road.

AN environmental charity is enlisting volunteers to join its battle against invasive species.

Findhorn-based Wild Things needs help to remove hogweed and knotweed from the banks of the river Findhorn because of the damage it causes to wildlife.

Fieldwork manager, Eleanor Foster, confirmed full personal protective equipment and training is provided.

She said: “We’ve been tackling non-native invasive species on the lower Findhorn to great effect. Giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam out-compete native flora, radically altering the biodiversity of fragile and unique Scottish habitats. Working closely with our partners, Findhorn, Nairn and Lossie Fisheries Trust (FNLFT), as well as dedicated volunteers, we are committed to eradicating them.”

Wild Things includes conservation work in its educational programmes to give back to areas it enjoys with excursion groups.

The area of Waterford infested by Giant Hogweed in 2015 - the white flower heads hide the plant underneath.
The area of Waterford infested by Giant Hogweed in 2015 - the white flower heads hide the plant underneath.

Eleanor said: “In 2015 we got involved with clearing giant hogweed from the banks of the river near Kinloss. Before work began there, it had taken hold and native flora were struggling.

“Giant hogweed out-competes native flora and creates a monoculture environment. As such, there is less availability of different flowers and leaves for the invertebrates and herbivores which need our native flora as a food source.

“The knock-on effects of this affect all forms of animal life.”

The same area at the same time of year in 2019 - minus the Giant Hogweed!
The same area at the same time of year in 2019 - minus the Giant Hogweed!

This year, Wild Things are continuing work in the same area of the lower Findhorn at Waterford to prevent regrowth, but they are also pushing downstream towards Findhorn Bay. The weedkillers start upstream to prevent seeds washing downriver and re-infesting cleared areas.

“The problem here is very bad,” said Eleanor, “with lots of Giant hogweed and large areas of dense Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam.”

However, Eleanor pointed out that the area is still very biodiverse. Staff and volunteers see a variety of birdlife, mammals and invertebrates, as well as native flora including rare and orchids and ancient woodland indicator species.

She said: “In the areas where we have cleared invasive non-native species, we are seeing biodiversity returning. The area is filled with bird song and flowering plants. They are well worth looking after.”

Wild Things and FNLFT depend on extra assistance from volunteers.

Eleanor said: “We need all the volunteer help that we can get as the problem is extensive so the more we have, the further downstream we can extend our positive impact on the environment.

“Volunteers learn about ecology while enjoying a nice day with staff at the same time!”

She added: “Accredited chemical use training can be provided for regular, returning volunteers.

“We also offer training such as ecology knowledge and bushcraft skills. Groups of volunteers can include dedicated time for this type of activity as part of a team-building type day.”

Volunteers are welcome along for one day or more regularly if they wish. Wild Things head out every Thursday throughout the summer with individual volunteers, but will add a day if there are enough people willing to help.

As well as protective suits, boots, gloves and visors, all of the equipment needed for using herbicide safely and environmentally consciously is provided.

See https://wild-things.org.uk/our-events/habitat-restoration-project for more information.

Jack Farge, David Elliott, Ewan Fisher, Wievke Logemann and EleanorFoster have been clearing Giant hogweed on behalf of Wild Things.
Jack Farge, David Elliott, Ewan Fisher, Wievke Logemann and EleanorFoster have been clearing Giant hogweed on behalf of Wild Things.


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