Making a difference to the River Dee

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A team of volunteers from Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission’s Aberdeen office has spent a day tackling the dense foliage on the banks of the River Dee.

Under the guidance of the River Dee Trust, the ten volunteers used their Be the Difference day to plough through vast swathes of the invasive non-native plant Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) near the Bridge of Dee in Aberdeen.

Through a combination of hand tools and sheer force, the team cleared the ground of large areas of the species, which causes problems for both people and wildlife, from the banks of the river.

River Officer, Calum Hislop explained how the Himalayan balsam has come to dominate the riverside: “Over the last 10 years this plant has become more prevalent and excluded native wild flowers, which is also to the detriment of associated wildlife such as bumblebees.

“In summer its dense stands obstruct parts of the riverside path and in winter the stands die back leaving unattractive dry stems.

“In addition, without a diversity of other plant species to reduce erosion, soil can be washed into watercourses impacting on fish spawning areas and other freshwater life.”

The volunteers focused most of their energy on the uneven ground and areas close to trees and the river.

Their efforts will enable staff from the River Dee Trust and contractors to clear large strips using machinery, while River Dee Trust staff and volunteers trained in use of pesticides can work on the water’s edge allowing native plant species to regenerate in the newly opened spaces.

The works form part of the River Dee Trust’s more extensive three year Lower Dee invasive plant control programme.

Alistair Watson, Environmental Advisor for SHE Transmission led the team of volunteers and said: “Living and working in the area, we know how beautiful the river bank can be and the amazing wildlife it can sustain, so when we found an opportunity to help the Trust with clearing the banks, we were more than happy to help.

“We are all really proud of the transformation that we have made to this under-appreciated green space, it was worth all of the blisters and aching limbs.”

“Thanks to the hard work of the SHE Transmission volunteers an area much greater than we had expected was cleared.

Since the launch of SSE’s ‘Be the Difference’ volunteering programme, it has helped over 2,500 projects in local communities.