Final solution for knotty problem

IT was a knotty problem threatening an oasis of green in the heart of a fishing hamlet - and could have been a risk to the foundations of its homes.But a year after work started on the project to eradicate one of nature's most invasive weeds, experts say it has been successfully cleared and have given the area a clean bill of health.

IT was a knotty problem threatening an oasis of green in the heart of a fishing hamlet - and could have been a risk to the foundations of its homes.

But a year after work started on the project to eradicate one of nature's most invasive weeds, experts say it has been successfully cleared and have given the area a clean bill of health.

Trustees of the Millennium Green at Felixstowe Ferry were told it could cost £100,000 to get rid of the Japanese knotweed found on the land and which by law they had to remove.

Had they not, it would have soon spread across the site and swiftly suffocated all its grass, shrubs and young trees by creating dense shade.

But thanks to Suffolk-based company Thurlow Countryside Management (TCM), the plant has now been destroyed.

Countryside officer Nick Marsh, of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths project, said: “This is a particularly nasty weed and had it not been spotted and the action taken, it would have ruined the whole of the Millennium Green quite quickly.

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“It spreads very rapidly. One of the dangers, too, is it can be transferred from place to place so easily - just a tiny fragment picked up on the bottom of a shoe can take it to somewhere else and it will re-establish itself.”

The super-weed can threaten not just land, but also buildings.

“It can grow through brick and concrete and one of the big concerns here was there were homes not far away and it could have caused real problems to their foundations,” said Mr Marsh.

Anthony Ratcliffe, chairman of the Millennium Green Trust, said one of the trustees spotted the knotweed during some planting of young trees and shrubs on one side of the green.

“We are delighted it has been eradicated, and in just a year when normally it can take up to three years,” he said.

TCM business manager Clifford Harris presented Mr Ratcliffe with a guarantee certificate giving assurance the knotweed is gone. The company carried out the work for free as part of a community project.

The knotweed was covering an area four metres by six metres, but to get to the root system and rhizomes an area seven metres around the affected site, to a depth of three metres, had to be tackled.

The plant was introduced into Victorian England in 1824 by the Dutch because it was seen as an attractive plant - today it is reckoned it would cost £2 billion to remove all the Japanese knotweed in the UK.

Have you had problems with Japanese knotweed? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Japanese knotweed

Japanese Knotweed is commonly found along railway lines, riverbanks, roads and footpaths, in graveyards, on derelict sites or anywhere it has been dumped, dropped or deposited.

It has large, oval green leaves and a hollow stem similar to bamboo - and can grow as tall as three metres.

Towards the end of August clusters of cream flowers develop and then produce seeds that are sterile. The plant dies back between September and November.

It will grow in any type of soil, no matter how poor, and develops via its extensive underground root (rhizome) network - a tiny fragment of root will grow to form a new plant.

The speed with which it has spread to all parts of the UK has been spectacular, especially as it does not leave seeds behind but grows from pieces of the plant or root system cut and transported by people or by water.

Other invasive weeds include giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam, Parrot's feather and floating pennywort.