THE programme has succeeded again this year - all likely locations for Giant Hogweed on the Tyne and its tributaries have been surveyed, and due to the hard work of the farmers and volunteers we have eliminated all plants which are flowering, or likely to, this year. And all this despite lockdown. All that is left is a few locations with some very young plants, and the occasional surprise new sighting. The map on 1 August shows every section with the green tick - meaning it is clear of the plant.
After some years of sporadic attempts to deal with the problem, now with this properly organised programme, it is the second year in a row we have cleared the entire river catchment of all growing plants. So again, no new seeds have entered the seed-bank. Which means next year we are really hopeful of seeing the population reducing.
Status on 1 August 2020
We record all the sightings on our Google map; the yellow colour means it's been removed or sprayed. If we spot any Japanese Knotweed, that gets recorded too - see map (purple are this year's, brown previous years). Note these are all "layers" of THE Online Map, which you can easily switch on/off individually.
The infestation now clearly splits into two areas, above Pencaitland and below Haddington. This GH-free gap should hopefully get wider next year.
Sightings in 2020
Compared with Last Year
So how does this all compare to last year? Well, we've seen roughly the same number of plants, in roughly the same number of locations. The number we have seen flowering has reduced a lot, particularly above Pencaitland, although this is partly due to the end-of-year mop-up being earlier. The bar charts below show the numbers and trends. (NB: Excludes Tyninghame and Bellyford Burn, as we no comparable data. NB2: Comparing years is tricky, because of the different number of surveys, by different people, at different times.)
- Landowners Meeting
In February, James again held a start-of-season meeting in the Town House in Haddington for the landowners - about 20 arrived, and some new spotters also came along. Topics included a review of last year, what we need to do differently this time, advice for spotters, and how to use the online map. And the Roundup which Bayer had donated to the project was handed out.
- Spotter Training
Last year the whole river was surveyed by just four people, so we made a call for volunteers to take ownership of small sections, and become "Spotters". Over 20 people responded. We organised two training sessions to get people familiar with using a mobile app to record their sightings. The first took place at JW's house to practice with the app, then a spotting practical on-site at Phantassie. Then Covid started, so we replaced the second with individual online sessions.
Then Covid turned into lockdown, putting all our plans into disarray. The farmers are essential workers, so fortunately spraying largely continued. Spotting in pairs was largely out of the question, but several of us who live near the river were able to convert our daily exercise into spotting sessions. Thanks to all those who spotted - it can be tricky work, but many hands make light work.
In June, JW & DQ visited all the known sightings, and the sections which hadn't been surveyed, and removed all the plants found. It looked like we could declare the Tyne clear of GH!
Then an eagle eye spotted a bad infestation on the Bellyford Burn, and a group of us (socially distancing of course!) spent some hard hours dead-heading and bagging, see our blog
- Outwith the Tyne
With the increased awareness, we are now getting more reports of GH in other places, so these are being added to another online map, which covers the whole of East Lothian. Some of the volunteers on the Bellyford Burn expedition are now confident enough to deal with new sites they have spotted, by themselves (you know who you are, Joyce & Chris!)
And So Next Year?
- Hopefully the state of Covid-19 will allow us all to monitor our own sections, and in pairs
- After the scare with the Bellyford Burn, there are more small tributaries which we should double-check
- More farmers are encouraged to be more thorough in their spraying
- Our previous sponsors decide to help the programme again
- Acquire more waders to enable more thorough spotting
- LESS HOGWEED!