Paddling volunteers tackle troublesome river plant

Image: British Canoeing

Volunteers have taken part in a day of action to clear floating pennywort in the River Wey, UK.

Organised by British Canoeing and the Angling Trust, the community effort saw paddlers, anglers and other volunteers arrive with the mission to clear as much of the plant from the Surrey river as possible.

Floating pennywort is an invasive non-native species that can grow quickly, about 20cm a day, dominating waterways by forming thick mats and causing serious environmental problems – as well as making it hard to paddle canoes. Originating from South America, the plant grows so densely that light cannot get through, causing the water to lose oxygen, killing other plants, invertebrates and fish.

The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) said it costs £25m per year due to the management of the species and lost revenue.

Chloe Crompton, from the Colne Valley Regional Park, works on clearance projects with British Canoeing in numerous catchment areas. She said: “With having so many more hands on, you can make such a big impact in terms of working across a large stretch of river, pulling out more pennywort.

“The key thing is having people on the water and on the bank because pennywort is in very difficult locations to reach. Last year the pennywort grew across about a third of the river but coming back this year there’s hardly any in comparison.”

Similar work continues across the country and with the help of so many people giving up their time it is hoped that floating pennywort can be controlled, if not eventually eradicated.

"Having so many more people, you can make such a big impact. Last year the pennywort grew across about a third of the river but coming back this year there’s hardly any in comparison.”

Chloe Crompton, Colne Valley Regional Park
Image: British Canoeing