Volunteers battle invasive plant species at Widbrook Common

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Volunteers battle invasive plant species at Widbrook Common

Volunteers from the Maidenhead Waterways Restoration Group joined forces with National Trust rangers last weekend to clear the channel on Widbrook Common of an invasive plant species.

The unsightly red plant, water fern, has been growing across the surface of the water and the aim of the clear-up was to enhance bio-diversity and improve the quantity and quality of the water flow.

Maidenhead Waterways has been working with the National Trust to make sure a good flow of water is present to supply its regeneration of York Stream in Maidenhead town centre but also helping out with the water fern.

On Saturday, April 23, the joint team cleared away the bulk of the water fern, as well as beginning to open up a narrow central channel to prevent water becoming stagnant.

The rangers have been aware of low levels of the plant for the past few years.

Lead ranger Rachel Forsyth said: “In terms of invasive species, this is not one of the bad ones.

“It tends to go through boom and bust years, and is really knocked back by a cold winter – which we missed out on last year. This is probably why it has been so prolific this spring.”

She added: ‘It has been really helpful to have a volunteer team to help clear some of the water fern away.

“We are now looking at other possible options to control it, although it does naturally come and go in waterways.”

These could include introducing Canadian weevils which eat nothing but the water fern and then die out.

After the clear-up the volunteers had to wash down their kit and boots on site to prevent cross contamination.

The Maidenhead Waterways volunteers are planning to team up again with the National Trust next month for another work party at Widbrook Common.

The common was given to the National Trust in 1934 and is still grazed by commoners today.

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