A band of public-spirited volunteers braved the rain to help improve one of Bolton’s notable beauty spots by rooting out an unwelcome plant from the Himalayas.

Despite Thursday’s bad weather, they turned out for Forestry England’s Big Balsam Bash at Horrocks Wood.

Their task was to remove the non-native and invasive Himalayan balsam, which is having a damaging effect on the woodland.

Lancashire Telegraph: Valentina ScarpaValentina Scarpa

Forestry England Volunteer co-ordinator, Valentina Scarpa, said: “We want to try and control the spread of this plant because it’s a threat to other species.

Lancashire Telegraph: Fay Thomas with fellow volunteer LukasFay Thomas with fellow volunteer Lukas

"In the last two years we’ve noticed the biodiversity has diminished, including the disappearance of many native wildflowers."

This plant has rapidly become one of the UK's most invasive weed species, out-competing native plants for space, light, nutrients, and pollinators, in doing so, diminishing biodiversity and contributing to erosion.

Horrocks Wood is set within the foothills of Winter Hill, with views to Jodrell Bank Observatory and beyond on a clear day, according to Forestry England.

Lancashire Telegraph: Fatima MusaFatima Musa

Civil servant Fatima Musa heard about the day through a community volunteer scheme at work.

“I live in Astley Bridge and I often go and enjoy Horrocks Wood with my family,” she said.

“I think showing how you can do things to benefit the community – and the environment – is a good example to set for my little girl. The next time I take her, I’ll be able to show her what we did.”

Lancashire Telegraph: George OgdenGeorge Ogden

For retired GP George Ogden of Horwich, getting involved is a way of keeping fit while doing something worthwhile for others.

“I’ve been participating on the Balsam Bash for the past five years. It gets me out and about and it feels good to put something back into the local area.”

University of Manchester Biology graduate Fay Thomas travelled from Leigh to tackle the Himalayan balsam.

READ MORE: Bolton's Toby Carvery pub and what lies behind the grand façade

Bolton's hidden gems to explore this bank holiday weekend

Bolton bakery serving locals for more than 100 years needs 'YOU'

“When you come and work on an area and go for a walk there later on, it’s really satisfying to see the improvement,” she said. “It’s a rewarding feeling to know that you’re helping to improve England’s eco system and that you’re doing some good in the world.

“There’s a lovely sense of camaraderie amongst the volunteers, a real community. It’s great fun and you meet people of all ages and backgrounds.”

“You don’t need to be an expert, you just need a pair of wellies!”

The next Big Balsam Bash at Horrocks Wood is on Thursday, May 30, between 10am and 3pm, and again June 4.

The meeting point is the Horrocks Wood car park, Scout Road, Bolton, Bl1 7NY.

It is a free event and no experience is required. Guidance and tools will be provided, as will tea, coffee and biscuits, but volunteers are asked to bring their own water and packed lunch.

For further details and to register your attendance, visit www.forestryengland.uk and enter Big Balsam Bash Horrocks Wood in the search bar.

A Himalayan threat more menacing than the Yeti

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), an invasive species native to the foothills of the Himalayas, has become one of the UK's most problematic weeds. Imported to the British Isles for its alluring pink flowers, the plant has flourished over the past 50 years, significantly impacting native species.

This invasive plant has a rapid spread due to its high seed production and the ability to grow quickly early in the growing season. Himalayan balsam plants are the tallest annual plants in Europe, forming a dense, compact canopy that restricts native plant species' access to light. This aggressive growth out-competes native flora for space, light, nutrients, and pollinators.

Additionally, Himalayan balsam has limited soil-binding capacity. Its shallow roots do not anchor the soil as effectively as the root systems of native plants, significantly increasing the risk of erosion and flooding. The combination of these factors makes Himalayan balsam a considerable threat to the UK's ecosystems.