Friends of The Dearne - Tescos Scissett Habitat Workshop and Balsam Bash

The many willing volunteers who cleared a big stand of Himalayan balsam and many sacks of rubbish in Scisset

I had the privilege of contributing to a great event that was set up by Phil Slater (Friends of River Dearne) and hosted by both Don Catchment Rivers Trust and The Wild Trout Trust.

It was also (importantly) supported by the local branch of Tesco - whose car park and store front the River Dearne runs past in the little West Yorkshire village of Scissett - and also by the Environment Agency.

The concept was simple - invite local volunteers to join together and remove the invasive, non-native Himalayan balsam, clear-up litter and also learn some simple river-habitat protection and improvement techniques.

This last part is why I was on site - to run a mini "habitat workshop" to explain the appropriate balance between light and shade; as well as the huge importance of "cover" habitat or refuge for different stages of a wild trout's life-cycle. When take together, removing the competitive dominance of the invasive plants (which not only benefit native plants - but also the bugs and other wildlife that depend on those native plants) and creating a more varied habitat can have a great benefit to the species of river corridors.

Diligent litter removal!

I would argue that this is especially valuable when those river corridors are surrounded by the tarmac and buildings of urban areas - but could the volunteers be found and convinced to attend?

Well, it is a great compliment to the local village communities that well over 20 volunteers gave up their free time on a week day to come down, learn and get stuck in. Many hands really did make light work.

I had many interesting chats with attendees and I got to demonstrate some simple habitat-creation techniques that had multiple benefits for fish, birds and invertebrates alike.

Himalayan Balsam: Before...

...and after


Simple laying technique to create diversity in tree canopy as well as producing cover habitat in the stream margins

Cover habitat on the far bank - beneficial to fish, invertebrates and birds.

Urban and River Corridor environments - side-by-side.

Big thanks to Phil and all of the Friends of The Dearne, NE-region Environment Agency, Tescos Scissett and everyone at Don Catchment Rivers Trust Denby Dale Parish Council, Upper Dearne Valley Navigators, Scissett Litter Pickers, Ten Villages Conservation Group and Made in Clayton West for a great event all round (and a wonderful result).

Paul