VOLUNTEERS are needed to help tackle an invasive species of weed that threatens local wildlife and poses flood risks along the River Kent.

Himalayan Balsam is prevalent around the South Lakes, and volunteers have been working with the South Cumbria Rivers Trust to remove it from the banks of the Kent and the nearby areas.

With the balsam around Kendal nearly under control, volunteers are now hoping to expand their operation upstream, and need the manpower to help them.

Ken Taylor, who helps organise the volunteer efforts, said: "We want to extend our reach as we keep finding new patches. The seeds get into the river and are spread downstream.

"Himalayan Balsam is very easy to remove, so we just need more people to do it.

"The problem with the balsam being there is that it is seasonal, so when it does not grow in the winter it leaves the river banks exposed and these are then likely to erode more easily, which is a flood risk.

"When it does grow it can slow down the river flow.

"It also stifles native species, as where Himalayan Balsam grows, it takes over. So it is unwelcome on a number of levels.

"It is easy enough to control after the first substantial effort to get rid of it, as then you just have to keep an eye out for it growing back.

"You just need a pair of gloves and some clothes to protect you from any brambles."

A number of groups have been set up around the different parts of the South Lakes, and people are being asked to attend volunteering days to help remove the plant to enable other plants to grow instead.

These groups include Croppers Wood, Lambrigg, Elterwater, Near Orrest, Fisher Tarn, The Helm, Langdale and Ambleside.

If anybody spots any new patches they are advised to contact the SCRT rather than going in and pulling it up, as touching the seeds can cause them to explode and spread the balsam further.

Anybody interested can join one of these groups by visiting the South Cumbria Rivers Trust website, or by emailing info@scrt.co.uk or calling 01539 530047.