Maritime and Coastguard Agency staff help New Forest rivers and streams

Staff and volunteers taking part in the himalayan balsam pull at lymington reedbeds nature reserve

Published Monday 3 July 2017

Staff from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency changed their focus from sea to rivers to help rid New Forest waterways of invasive plants.

10 members of staff from the Southampton headquarters joined regular volunteers at the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) led event on Tuesday 6 June.

The Himalayan balsam pull marked the start of a partnership between the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the New Forest National Park Authority to raise awareness of volunteering and opportunities for the public to both look after and be safe on the National Park coast.

Volunteers were working towards a goal of removing balsam from 10 hectares of wet woodland from the Lymington Reedbeds Nature Reserve. The invasive plant Himalayan balsam was pulled from the woodland around the river to mark National Volunteers’ Week and continue the ongoing programme of balsam pulls by the HIWWT to help look after the Lymington River. Staff also met two coastguards from the Lymington Coastguard Rescue Team.

Sir Alan Massey, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: ‘As an agency, we know the value of volunteers – our Coastguard Rescue Teams are made up of those who selflessly give up their time to keep people safe on the coast. We value their contribution and know the difference it makes. It’s why we encourage our staff at the MCA to look at how they might bring something extra to the communities they live and work in as volunteers. I was delighted to hear from those involved in this project how much they felt they had gained personally by giving of their time.’

Jim Mitchell, Interpretation and Outreach Officer for the New Forest National Park Authority said: ‘The volunteers cleared a huge amount of balsam in just a few hours. It was great to join them and see the difference they made. Both the National Park and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency realise what an important role volunteering plays along our coasts.

‘There are lots of opportunities for people to get involved in volunteering in the Forest, including more river conservation sessions coming up over the summer’.

Introduced to the UK in the 1800s, Himalayan balsam is quick growing and tolerates low light levels, meaning it can shade out and exclude native wildlife. It can spread quickly if not removed, as each plant can produce up to 800 seeds that can be shot up to seven metres by explosive seedpods.

Balsam pulls are an important and effective method of controlling the spread of this non-native plant, and involve volunteers removing these shallow-rooted plants before they flower. The pulls provide an excellent way for volunteers to get out and about with like-minded people, while helping to conserve the New Forest.

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Jo Gore organised the volunteering day as part of the New Forest Non-Native Plants project. She said: ‘It was fantastic to have the help of 10 volunteers from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on the balsam pull at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve at Lymington Reedbeds. The team cheerfully pulled balsam throughout the day at this beautiful Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  

‘We managed to clear a large section of woodland despite the rather muddy conditions. At the moment Himalayan balsam is having a massive negative impact on the native flora that should be growing in the woodland. By removing the balsam, we are opening up space for a range of native plants to re-establish and this will help to restore the SSSI. Monitoring has shown that work carried out in previous years is already having a positive impact on the abundance of species.’  

The New Forest Non-Native Plants project is part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Our Past, Our Future landscape partnership scheme, which is led by the New Forest National Park Authority and 10 key partners.

Volunteer groups will be working throughout the summer at the Reedbeds. If any other groups or individuals would like to get involved, then please contact Jo Gore on


Notes to Photo Editor:

Staff and volunteers taking part in the Himalayan balsam pull at Lymington Reedbeds Nature Reserve.

Notes to Editor:

Our Past, Our Future

Our Past, Our Future is a landscape partnership scheme for the New Forest which, supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, will undertake a range of projects to restore lost habitats, develop Forest skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the New Forest. The partnership focuses on the enclosed lands which surround the Open Forest.

The five year scheme is being led by the New Forest National Park Authority working alongside several delivery and funding partners, including the New Forest Land Advice Service.

For more information on Our Past, Our Future visit

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @HLFSouthEast

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit to find out more.

Media contact
Beki Mole, Communications Assistant
New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646639

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