Barns Meadow and Becks Meadow Nature Reserves, managed by the Wildlife Trust, laying beside the Nene on the east side of town had become infested with ragwort in recent years. The yellow flowering plant which is often seen on waste ground and along roadways is poisonous to livestock, though it has been some years since it killed any there have been cases of sickness.
While the plant is growing it doesn’t present too much danger as it has a bitter taste, though the cattle seem to keep trying it just to make sure! But when the plant has been cut and died off it loses its bitterness and animals will eat it.
Cutting and removing ragwort is no help as it will only return. There are only two options – spray it or pull it out, including the roots. These being nature reserves and already being grazed by cattle the first option couldn’t be used so it had to be hand pulling, which is where volunteers come in useful!
By hand and with homemade heavy duty weed pullers the team spent over 120 hours during the summer removing the ragwort and returning at interval to deal with any that came through late.
‘Unfortunately this will not be the last year of hard work’, said the volunteer warden for the meadow, ‘ragwort is a biennial plant, taking two years to flower and we’ve only removed this year’s flowering plants. But we hope that we have prevented any of them setting seed so we will see the benefit in two years time. Next year will probably need the same amount of work again’.
Volunteering with the Wildlife Trust is not all weed pulling, see their programme leaflet for how you can enjoy a day in the outdoors as well as keep fit.