Rescuing River Rother from venomous invaders

A COMMUNITY group is battling to rescue a stretch of river from foreign invaders.

Catcliffe Flood Action Group volunteers have been clearing non-native plants from along the River Rother in the village.

Formed after floods in 2007, the group plus volunteers have been out and about hitting back at Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed and the venomous Giant Hogweed.

The plants have been slashed and chopped away to free up space for the native plants that have been crowded out by the invaders.

Himalayan Balsam has been reaching heights of six or seven feet along the river and Giant Hogweed can cause bad blisters to people coming in contact with it.

Chairman Garry Marsh said the Flood Action Group has been working with Yorkshire Water, the Environment Agency, Rotherham Borough Council, River Stewardship Company and other organisations to carry out the vital work.

But the clearance work this year may not be the end of the problem as the invaders are currently in flower and could come back next year. Their roots may also extend over large areas.

One bank of the river has been worked on but the other cannot be accessed at present because of private properties so no clearance has taken place there.

Mr Marsh told the Advertiser: “It’s looking like a site of devastation now we have cleared the bank because there was so much Himalayan Balsam.”

Mr Marsh said that another volunteer day to clear more of the bank could take place in the next few weeks.

He said it is vital to allow native species to return as this will have a positive knock-on effect on insect life and so birds and fish who feed on them.

Mr Marsh said: “The problem is that the plants are so dense that nothing else can grow. They are just taking over. You then lose the insect community which means you lose the fish and birds. This would be a pity because the Rother has been making such a comeback.

“Hopefully we have made some kind of impact but we have only taken on one side of the bank.

“It’s going to be ongoing and this time next year we have got to be on the look-out.”