Merlin Scouts rise to the challenge

The Merlin Explorer Scouts have joined forces with the Carmarthenshire Fishermen’s Federation’s (CFF) initiative to tackle a non-native invasive plant that is taking over the county.

Siriol Butterworth Merlin Explorer Scouts Team Leader said “We were contacted by the CFF and learnt of their plans to eradicate the plant through a programme of mapping, pulling, cutting and strimming from the rivers of Carmarthenshire from the top of the river catchments down.

“The Merlin Explorer Scouts were planning their forthcoming programme of activities and the objectives of the project were “a good fit “, involving navigation, mapping skills and an appreciation of environmental matters”.

Siriol said “We were advised that the first phase mapping element had yet to complete the survey of the presence of the plant on the river Sawdde – a key tributaries of the Towy near Llangadog. We undertook the mapping over two days and we are pleased to report that our explorers received a warm welcome from the landowners whose permission was sought prior to undertaking the project”.

CFF Chairman David Saywell said “It was fantastic to receive the support and expertise of the Merlin Scout Explorers. It was important for us to complete the first year mapping on the Towy and some of its major tributaries from the headwaters at Rhandirmwyn and downstream to Nantgaredig.

CFF’s first year activities have involved a tremendous effort from our angling volunteers, clubs and grantors. We chose 10 broad sites between the Rhandirmwyn, Llandovery and Nantgaredig. Through the mapping and volunteer funding, this enabled us to cut the balsam in over 23 miles of river bank. We were concerned however that we had yet to complete the mapping on the Sawdde because it is a major northern tributary and we knew that the plant has to be controlled from the top of the river down because seeds produced by the plant are dispersed and colonised downstream.

So, we were delighted that the Merlin Explorer Scouts agreed to complete the mapping of the Sawdde, an area amounting to more than 8 miles. This was no small task and we are extremely grateful to them for getting involved. It made our mapping more comprehensive and will be used for the essential continuation of the project next year. We cannot thank them enough.

David Saywell said “The CFF also wants to publicly thank Natural Resources Wales who have advised on direct control measures, species and best practice management including technical mapping support. By working together, mapping carefully and working down from the top of the river catchments we believe we can control and eventually eradicate this serious threat to Carmarthenshire’s rivers. This will bring direct benefits to all members of the community who work in and/or enjoy the river valleys of our county”.

“A free mobile phone application called “Plant Tracker” is available for those interested – it is specifically designed to record invasive plant species”.

At a more practical level we have appealed to anglers to “pick 50 plants” every time they fish. The plant comes out relatively easily and this should not take too much effort. It is however of considerable importance.