Growing concerns over weeds at Pinewoods

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The conservation group which works to protect the Pinewoods is looking at drastic new measures to prevent the spread of invasive weeds in the historic woodlands.

In recent years volunteers have painstakingly removed Himalayan balsam from the woodlands by hand however this year for the first time the group has called on professionals to help.

Chair of the Pinewoods Conservation Group, Neil Hind said: “Himalayan balsam and other invasive weeds have become a major problem for the Pinewoods.

“Current efforts to deal with the various species including Balsam and Japanese knotweed are not working so we need a new strategy.”

The conservation group has enlisted the help of firm Invasive Weed Management to tackle the problem and are working with other local groups including Open Country and Horticap.

To prevent the weeds returning the group will replant rising native wildflowers - the scheme is expected to take around three years to heavily reduce, if not eradicate, balsam from the Pinewoods and cost around £10,000.

Mr Hind added: “New fund raising activities will start almost immediately to allow us to seriously tackle balsam and replant with native species. We will be adding the new project to our website where people will be able to track progress and we will appreciate views and feedback from others.”

Roy Smith has been involved with the Pinewoods Conservation Group for 12 years. He said: “We have realised balsam is a bully and other plants don’t stand a chance. It is increasing year on year and it is hard to clear it.

“It is hard to find the volunteers, it is tough work.”

The group say the pesky plant is spreading to the Valley Gardens and that they have spotted the dreaded Japanese knotweed in the Pinewoods.

Carolyn Rothwell from the Harrogate District Biodiversity Action Group said: “We planted hundreds of wild flowers which were there one year but gone the next because of the balsam. It just over takes everything.

“A lot of bee groups like the balsam, so the biodiversity group want something planted in place which is suitable all year round.”

Harrogate Borough Council said it is aware of the Japanese knotweed and is tackling the problem.

A spokesman said: “There are some very small clumps of Japanese knotweed, and we have it under control.

“It has to be dealt with properly and carefully and we are taking the measures to control the weed.”