Offenders help fight the invasive species battle

Offenders serving community payback orders are doing their bit and supporting Natural Resources Wales officers in the battle to tackle the invasive Himalayan balsam plant on the River Alyn.

Over three days, a pilot project involving a group of offenders worked with NRW officers and the local angling club to clear Himalayan balsam from a 400 metre area along the lower stretches of the river.

The collaboration with the Wales Community Rehabilitation Company is helping to contribute towards the Alyn Valley Himalayan balsam project, established by local groups and coordinated by Flintshire and Denbighshire county councils.

It aims to eradicate the plant from the river’s source in Llandegla down to its confluence with the River Dee.

To date, volunteers working on the project have cleared a long stretch up to the village of Pontblyddyn, and the hard work continues downstream to clear the banks of the plant, which threatens our native species.

Bev Dyer, Environment Officer, Natural Resources Wales said:

“Himalayan balsam is a real threat to our native plants and wildlife – it outcompetes other plants and smothers them, scattering millions of seeds and spreading rapidly.

“It can obstruct footpaths, restricting our access to the outdoors, and can also damage river banks, causing crumbling earth and soil to enter the river.  This affects the water quality in the river and disturbs important breeding grounds for fish, while at the same time contributing to flood risk further downstream.

“To tackle a project like this, we need all hands to the deck. It’s been great to have the support of the offenders to make more headway on this important project.  We look forward to working with the Wales Community Rehabilitation Company to expand these pilots across other areas in Wales.”

The River Alyn is currently failing to meet current European water quality standards because of the lack of fish and high levels of nutrients in the water.

Removing Himalayan Balsam from the river will help to re-establish native plant species and improve water quality.  It will also improve the condition of breeding grounds for fish, encouraging fish populations in the area to increase.

Richard Purton, Team Manager for Community Payback in North Wales said:

“It has been a pleasure to work with Natural Resources Wales in helping to clear the area which will hopefully not only have its environmental benefits but also allow the public to enjoy the site even more.  This is the first of such projects in North Wales in partnership with NRW and with the benefits being so tangible hopefully it will be the first of many.”

During the last year, 552,209 hours of Community Payback were worked across Wales which, if equated to the national minimum wage, would be approximately £3.5 million worth of labour.  Communities have benefitted from projects ranging from the painting local community centres to opening up inaccessible rights of ways for locals to enjoy.

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