If you go down to the locks today…

You’re in for a nice surprise! The footpath down the riverbank to Milby Lock has never looked better. This is all thanks to the ‘Milby Island Improvement Project’, led by Charlie Merson, a resident of Milby. The project has the backing of local parish councils, the Canal and River Trust and Newby Hall, owners of the land.

While Charlie continues to spend a huge amount of his own time and effort on clearing the undergrowth and flood debris, using his tractor and ‘topper’, he occasionally organises days when volunteers can come along to help. Saturday 3 June was one such day and the turnout of volunteers was very heartening, showing just how much this riverside walk is appreciated by local people. It is one of the greatest assets of the Boroughbridge area and needs maintaining.  Its long-term maintenance is what the project is all about and one of its principal objectives is to reverse the spread of Himalayan balsam. This highly invasive plant grows to eight feet in height by midsummer, obliterating all other indigenous plant life as well as the views across the river.  As a result of the work by Charlie and the volunteers last week new vistas have opened up down to the riverside and across to the other bank and whole swathes of the Himalayan balsam have been cut back or pulled out. But this sort of work needs to be done on a fairly regular basis to prevent the balsam from re-growing and then seeding, so one problem facing the project is how to keep up the momentum.

Photos in issue 52 of LUN show some of last Saturday’s enthusiastic volunteers toiling in the heat, but enjoying every minute!
Any one of you can help, however, by just pulling up a few balsam plants by the root as you walk along the riverbank. It comes up very easily if you pull steadily and slowly by clutching the stem near ground level.  Just discard it to one side and it will rot away nicely.
Do not confuse the invasive Himalayan balsam with the even taller Giant Hogweed. By late summer the latter can reach twelve feet in height. Please see the photos in issue 52 of LUN to help you identify the plants. On Milby Island the Canal and River Trust are taking steps to eradicate this dangerous plant but it is important that anyone coming across it does not touch it since the resulting skin rash can be extremely severe. The giant hogweed is a greater problem on the opposite river bank (the Aldborough side) where it appears to be spreading unchecked.

The date of the next volunteers’ workday will be advertised on notices at either end of the Milby Island walk.Martin Rae, Kirby Hill and District Parish Council (322886)