September: A spot of gardening and a working holiday

A group helping to pull out weeds

Non-native species can be tough on a woodland like Allen Banks and Staward Gorge. However, with a little help from my friends we can get there.

Himalayan Balsam. Oh boy, where to start?...

It's one of many non-native invasive species that threaten the UK’s woodlands. Native to Asia this large flower was introduced by the Victorians but spreads very easily and shades out the more delicate native plants.

Unfortunately, the river at Allen Banks is an ideal way for its seeds to be dispersed and it is often found first growing on the river banks before moving further in land. This means that unless the plants upstream are cleared there is a continual flow of new seed for places like here further downstream.

Thankfully Balsam is an annual plant, so by pulling out the stems you prevent it pollinating and going to seed. In late summer the flowers are at their most visible so it’s the perfect time for ‘Balsam bashing’. We’ve been doing it here and we’re indebted to the teams from the Tyne Rivers Trust and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty who’ve been doing the same upstream!

There’s been more non-native invasive species-tackling recently too, this time with the help from a family working holiday.

You see, Rhododendron is another Victorian import which we’re removing to enhance the biodiversity of the woods.

As well as cutting down rhododendron the families were involved with charcoal making and protecting young seedlings with tree guards. It wasn’t all hard work though, and we made time for plenty of bushcraft games and forest school activities. National Trust Working Holidays.

With Walks Woods still closed for your safety please remember to keep your dog on a lead while passing through farm fields to enter Morralee.

Why not also make the most of the closure by exploring some of the lesser trodden footpaths through Staward Gorge? Most of Staward woods was clear felled around the second world war and subsequently replanted with non native conifers.

Although they're a good source of fast growing timber these conifers are detrimental to the native wildlife of the area and the National Trust is now removing these dense plantations to improve the habitats. Red Squirrels, woodland birds and Dormice will all benefit from this work so keep your eyes open and let us know what you see via facebook and twitter.