MORE than 15 miles of Eden riverbank and lake shore have been cleared of one of the area’s most prolific alien invaders over the last year.

Himalayan Balsam, a plant which spreads rapidly and can cause severe riverbank erosion, has also been completely cleared from two Ullswater tributaries.

The success in the fight against this invasive species is thanks to the work of an army of volunteers who have given up their spare time to help clear the plant during 2012.

The clearance took place during 33 events, with volunteers contributing 1,200 hours of work.

Paul Greaves, invasive species officer at Eden Rivers Trust, said: “We are so grateful to all the volunteers for the fantastic contribution they have made towards ridding the Eden river system of Himalayan Balsam.

“There is a lot more to do but we have made great strides forward this year.”

The project has been supported financially by the Environment Agency, Natural England, Cumbria Community Foundation and Cumbria County Council.

Himalayan balsam was introduced to Kew Gardens from Kashmir in 1839 and has since spread out of control across Britain.

It not only shades out native plants, stopping them from growing, but also makes the banks liable to severe erosion in the winter when the plant dies down and leaves bare sections of ground with no protection.

Before dying down for the year its seeds spread over a large distance, allowing it to grow back quickly in the spring.

The only ways to stop it are to pull out each plant by hand, strim the area or use a chemical spray.

As well as Himalayan Balsam steps have been taken to stop another major invader this year.

Japanese Knotweed has been mapped around Ullswater and 98 per cent of it has been treated with herbicide.

More than 2,000 square metres have received treatment in 2012.

The third unwanted visitor receiving treatment this year has been Giant Hogweed, an invasive plant from South West Asia.

Although not as widespread as the others it is difficult to remove and can cause nasty burns to people who touch it.

Eden Rivers Trust has been treating it with herbicides.

Signs have been put up at eight sites to warn boat users of the dangers of unwittingly spreading these plants and animals around the shores of Ullswater.

People have been asked to check, clean and dry their boats and equipment as they leave the water. Information has also gone to four marinas and triathlon clubs.