Tees Operation Giant Hogweed – Our Mission
Our mission is to restore the natural heritage and biodiversity of rivers within the Tees catchment, and to create a safer environment for local communities, visitors and river users to enjoy.
Our goals are to:
- Map and remove Giant Hogweed.
- Reverse the loss of biodiversity by re-introducing native flora.
- Restore access and re-establish a safer amenity of great local importance.
- Raise awareness and educate people about Giant Hogweed.
Co-ordinating the actions of Local Action Groups, local authorities and landowners throughout the entire catchment is part of our mission. This will reduce the likelihood of seedbanks being replenished from untreated upstream areas, and is essential for promoting access to the river Tees for people to enjoy.
Giant Hogweed is present along approximately 96Km of the Tees, and a further 30km of along the lower tributaries.
Mapping the distribution of Giant Hogweed is essential to plan removal work and monitor progress. Mapping is conducted by dedicated volunteers, Tees Rivers Trust staff, angling clubs, local authorities and other interest groups. With your help, yearly re-mapping will provide a detailed picture of the extent and locations of Giant Hogweed throughout the catchment, showing the effectiveness of removal work. Please help us to map Giant Hogweed by recording any sightings of the plant HERE.
This project aims to reduce the presence of Giant Hogweed by 80% throughout the Tees catchment using co-ordinated chemical control methods. This will help to naturally re-establish ecosystems that have been negatively impacted by this invasive non-native plant.
Giant hogweed out-competes and rapidly replaces most native plants by forming dense stands and creating monocultures most native plants cannot compete with. Its early germination and emergence also allows it to develop populations ahead of native species. It can also grow leaves over 1m wide which shades out native vegetation.
Once the plant dies back in winter, large areas of riverbanks are left exposed, becoming susceptible to erosion from increased water flow during winter months. This destabilises banks, resulting in loss of land and increased silt loading in the river, causing further adverse effects.
Although listed under schedule 9 of Wildlife and the Countryside Act - making it illegal to plant or grow in the wild in the UK - there is no statutory responsibility for private landowners, local authorities or other government agencies to control or remove it from their land.
Once Giant Hogweed has been sufficiently reduced, we will actively re-introduce flora to areas where large monocultures have made natural regeneration unlikely. Working with local natural history societies, wildlife groups and volunteers, these sites will be populated with plants, bulbs and seeds which are sympathetic to riverbanks, meadows and woodland. Once established, the sites will be maintained, monitored and managed, eventually becoming sources of seed for other sites along the rivers.
The presence of giant hogweed has direct financial consequences for landowners. This includes a reduction in the value of leasing fishing rights, and increased liability for organised shoots and other events. Angling clubs have also lost areas that are now dangerous for club members to use because of Giant Hogweed. This has resulted in a reduction in safe fishing areas and has led to a decrease in club memberships.
The River Tees and its tributaries has long been a source of amenity and enjoyment for walkers, tourists and local communities. This amenity has contributed substantially to the health and wellbeing of the region and is source of economic input, adding to the wealth of the area. The most significant walking route in the area is The Teesdale Way, which does not attract as many visitors as it should due to the presence of Giant Hogweed.
We will open up sections which are dangerous or overgrown with Giant Hogweed by training and supporting local communities and angling clubs in practical work to remove Giant Hogweed from these areas. See above for more detail on how we aim to do this.
The sap of Giant Hogweed contains phototoxic chemicals. When these chemicals come in contact with the skin, in the presence of sunlight, they can cause severe burns and blistering.
There is a need to raise awareness about the dangers of the plant whilst also encouraging people to carry on accessing, using and enjoying the river. Burns arising from accidental contact are commonplace and it is not so well understood that just brushing against the plant can cause significant harm.
We will use a combination of art and science to engage pupils with the processes of rivers and our interactions with them. This project will teach children the history of invasive non-native species, how they came to be here and their impacts at a regional, national and global level.
Volunteers, members of angling clubs and other interest groups will be trained in chemical control methods. Trained operatives will be distributed throughout the catchment and supported by the Trust beyond the life of the project, creating a legacy of trained and experienced operatives.
We will raise awareness of bio-security throughout the catchment. Biosecurity means taking steps to make sure that clothing, footwear and equipment are cleaned between visiting sites to reduce and minimise the risk of spreading seeds or plant material of invasive non-native species to other sites. A good biosecurity routine is always essential, even if invasive non-native species are not always apparent. We will promote DEFRA’s Check, Clean, Dry and Be Plant Wise campaigns.