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 erosion, has also been cleared from two Ullswater tributaries.

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

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

Paul Greaves, invasive spe-cies officer at Eden Rivers Trust, said: “We are so grateful to the volunteers for the contribution they have made towards ridding the river system of this alien plant.

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

The project has been supported by the Environment Agency, Natural Eng-land, 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 it dies down and leaves bare ground with no protection.

Before dying down for the year its seeds spread over a large distance, allowing it to grow quickly in 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 Bal-sam, steps have been taken to stop Japanese Knotweed, which has been mapped around Ullswater – and 98 per cent of it treated with herbicide.

The third unwanted visitor receiving treatment 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 the plants 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.