Invasive Species

The strong winds are back. Although the skies are a fairly uniform dull grey, where there are differences in nuances, wispy streaks rush over their lighter neighbours like smoke from a bonfire, or what was soon to emanate from the car bonnet. The rain was not heavy, but the gusts blew Jackie and me up and down the gravel slopes crossing the heath on which we walked at Frogham where she had driven us this morning.

On Roger Penny Way there were two sets of temporary traffic lights marking spots where trees had presumably fallen across the road. One root mass circumference was quite the largest either of us has seen.Runners For a short stretch around Godshill, vehicles, and the inevitable Sunday cyclists, had to share the road with runners as they strung out along the tarmac before disappearing through the car park into Ashley Walk which winds across the heath.

That resting place for cars was bone dry compared with the one at Abbot’s Well where Jackie normally parks when we go to that part of the forest. The road up to the second car park is normally pitted and can be muddy. Car park Abbot's WellToday the pock marks had widened and deepened and were filled with ochre liquid, some of which may have come from the glaucous lake which was even now lapping at the fenders alongside it. Fortunately we managed to leave the car in the lower section.

New Zealand pygmyweed controlThe poster visible by the lake in the picture above explains that work is under way to control New Zealand pygmyweed which is threatening native New Forest plants. This perennial species of succulent, the Crassula helmsii, otherwise known as the swamp stonecrop, that has been introduced from the Antipodes, likes aquatic or semiterrestrial conditions. displayImage-1.cfmGiven the amount of water that has lain on the forest terrain for the last two years it is hardly surprising that this invader is enjoying itself.

The John Tradescants, father and son, were seventeenth century travellers and gardeners who imported many new species of plant, some of which, named after them, are welcome additions to our flora. Others have, for various reasons, introduced both flora and fauna, some of which have come to be less than welcome.

Himalayan balsamA warning about Himalayan balsam is posted on the Castleman Trailway near Ringwood. ‘Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is a relative of the busy Lizzie, but reaches well over head height, and is a major weed problem, especially on riverbanks and waste land, but can also invade gardens. It grows rapidly and spreads quickly, smothering other vegetation as it goes’ (RHS). I’m sure I’ve seen and, unknowingly admired it.

There are more than 1,000 species of rhododendron, many of which were introduced to England, I believe from China, in the 18th Century. Their splendour is evident in Furzey Gardens and in ours. RhododendronsUnfortunately ‘some types are now a pest in Britain, because they out-compete many native plants and, because their leaves contain toxins that some animals find inedible’.

In 17th Century, Canada Geese were introduced to supplement King James II’s waterfowl collection in St James’s Park. Canada geese youngJust like any other living creature, the young of these large birds, as I found in Cannon Hill Common on 28th September 2012, are intriguing and attractive. They do, however grow up, and are now a menace on our lakes and rivers. Their excreta is rather copious and can clog up the land around the waterways preventing grass from growing.

CoypuAnother menace, thought to have been eradicated by 1989, is the coypu, introduced from South America in 1929. This was kept in East Anglia for its fur. Some escaped, went forth, and multiplied. These creatures are extremely destructive. Was the ‘giant rat’ killed in County Durham in 2012, a survivor of the slaughter? If so, how many more are there?

When we came back to the car at Abbot’s Well today, it would not start. The water with which we had filled the tank yesterday was all gone. We had just enough left in a bottle to enable us to limp home, but we have a problem. The car didn’t smell too good and steam clouds rose from outside the front.

We had thought the lack of transport would mean that we would be unable to attend Helen’s birthday party this afternoon, but Ron collected us and took us to Poulner, and Shelly drove us home afterwards. Stretching into the evening we had an enjoyable time with friends and family involving much reminiscing and a certain amount of alcohol. My choice was red wine. There were plenty of well-filled and inventive canapĂ©s, and Helen kept warm snacks such as sausage rolls, and pastry filled with pork and apricots, flowing from the kitchen.