UK. Leicestershire's waterways Soar Pennywort clears successful

Thursday, 19 February 2009


An extensive clean up operation of one of the most widespread weeds on Leicestershire’s waterways has been a proven success.  The ongoing initiative run by British Waterways, the Environment Agency, Leicester City Council and local volunteer groups costing over £100K, has involved the management and clearing of Floating Pennywort on the River Soar and Grand Union Canal during 2008. 

Monthly monitoring and an extensive aerial survey conducted in October have illustrated that the combined efforts of the three agencies have resulted in a significant reduction in the number and spread of the plant on the River Soar, compared with the same survey carried out in 2007.

Floating Pennywort is an invasive plant, introduced to Britain’s waterways during the 1980’s.  It was first sighted in the region 5 years ago, and due to its rapid growth of up to 20cm per day, has quickly spread downstream.  The plant roots into shallow margins of water bodies, forming thick mats of floating vegetation which create numerous ecological and operational problems.  Pennywort starves the waterway of oxygen which has an adverse effect on other aquatic life.  It also poses a threat to other wildlife sites along the river corridor, increases flood risk by restricting drainage of the watercourse and causes navigation problems for boaters who are unable to pass through thick masses of plant life. 

The most effective method of eliminating the weed is by physically removing every fragment of the plant, and controlling re-growth using an approved herbicide.  This combined pro active and reactive approach has seen over 6,000 tonnes of Floating Pennywort removed from the River Soar since April 2007.  Richard Bennett, Heritage & Environment Manager at British Waterways, East Midlands comments;

“We are very pleased with the progress of the Pennywort clear up on the River Soar.  The aerial photography and surveys show encouraging results. Combined with the co-ordination and commitment between all involved parties, the hard frosts experienced this winter have also helped to minimise growth of the weed, although development of new beds growing from fragments still remains a risk.”

2009 will see continued investment in preventing further spread of Pennywort, and control of existing beds on navigable and non-navigable sections of the waterway.  Early response is the key to avoiding spread of the weed across the East Midlands.  The public can help the fight against Floating Pennywort by reporting sightings of new outbreaks outside the Soar valley to the Environment Agency on 0115 846 3776. Those interested in volunteering to remove the plant in Leicester should call Voluntary Action Leicester on  0116 255 3333.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 February 2009 )