As spring transitioned into summer the time came for our volunteering groups to rear into action. In the last few months, the air and waters have warmed up allowing invertebrates to spring into action and plants to start growing. This makes it a critical time of year for the Himalayan Balsam Action Group (HBAG), DBRC and Riverfly.

Himalayan Balsam is an invasive species in the UK that is found on riverbanks all over the country and outcompetes native vegetation due to its rapid growth rate. Once the plant has gone to seed, the seed pods explode and enter the watercourse, where they travel to new sites downstream, and spread like wildfire. In order to tame this invasive, HBAG gets together with a band of nearly 40 volunteers to rip up the plants before they get a chance to disperse. As the balsam bashing season can only start once the plants have flowered in early summer, over the winter HBAG summarized their 2021 work by creating a GIS map of all the Himalayan Balsam in the area and made plans for the year ahead. Now the time has come for the bashing to commence. The first of the season was held on the 12th of June tackling a section of river in Uffculme which has shown a drop in balsam numbers since the bash last year. This is great news as it shows that all this hard work is paying off and we can beat the dreaded balsam, all it takes is some pulling power!

Upcoming bashing dates:

  • Wednesday 29th June- Hemyock
  • Sunday 17th July- Burnworthy TBC
  • Thursday 28th July
  • Saturday 13th August
  • Thursday 25th August

If you would like to get involved, please contact

The Devon Biodiversity Records Centre also have some opportunities for volunteers to get involved, they run vegetation surveys in which people are asked to look out for 10 specific plant species on the riverbank. All it takes is a stroll along the river with a break or two to look out for flowers! You can join Jess from the DBRC on the 27thor 29th of June to learn what species to look out for and how to conduct a survey, go to our events page to find out more.

While HBAG and DBRC volunteers focus on what is surrounding the river, the Riverfly initiative looks at what is in the river. A group of trained volunteers has been surveying the invertebrates living in the river for over 10 years, and the results can give really useful indications of the wider health of the river in terms of ecological diversity and water quality.

The group held a volunteer training day on the 28th of May in Hemyock, in which 6 new willing participants qualified to join the survey network. This training included online theory, a classroom session, and practical river sampling under expert guidance. As a result of the group’s hard work, there are now 13 survey sites along the Culm, with surveys carried out in spring, summer, and autumn which have shown positive results with all the eight groups of invertebrates that comprise the Riverfly monitoring present.

For those who would rather get involved with the Culm from the comfort of their own home, we have the opportunity to monitor water quality through your computer, smartphone, or tablet. The sonde we have placed in the river at Killerton has been sending real-time data directly to us for the last few months, and we want to give you the chance to view this data too. You could be our eyes on the ground, noting unusual results and seeing if they correspond with anything you have noticed physically in the river. If this is something you would be interested in, we are planning on organizing a focus group to explain the data that the sonde collects and design a user-friendly interface that you could engage with.

Thank you to those of you have volunteered with Connecting the Culm in the past. If you would like to get involved with any of the initiatives mentioned in this article, please contact us via email at, or directly to