A new action group has formed in Essex to tackle the invasive species floating pennywort in a stretch of the River Chelmer, which will help to protect the local environment and keep local waterways open for everyone to enjoy.

Floating pennywort is a fast-spreading plant that grows quickly to form thick mats which can impede water flow and amenity use. It can completely cut-out native species as it blocks out light, reduces oxygen, obstructs air-breathing insects and reduces water temperatures.


Essex & Suffolk Water completed a project last year to remove pennywort from fishing ponds outside its Langham treatment works, located just outside Colchester. Work was also carried out on the Langford Cut, which is close to the company′s Langford water treatment works, along the River Chelmer.


Through this work it became clear that pennywort wasn′t just confined to these areas. There have been other outbreaks of pennywort along the entire 13 mile length of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, from Springfield Basin in Chelmsford down to Heybridge Basin in Maldon.


In order to deal with this issue effectively Essex & Suffolk Water has formed an action group in partnership with Chelmer Canal Trust, Essex Wildlife Trust, Essex Waterways, Environment Agency, and Native Landscapes - the company′s specialist contractor for dealing with invasive species.


This partnership approach will allow the organisations to combine their efforts and resources on eradicating this pennywort at its original source. The action group will be focussing most of their efforts this year on a known source of floating pennywort at the Springfield Meadows stretch of the River Chelmer.


A targeted approach will be required in order for the group to overcome this problem, so a combination of efforts from dedicated volunteers and a specialist contractor will take place throughout spring and summer 2018.


Ashley Pinnock, Conservation Advisor for Essex & Suffolk Water said: "We′re really pleased to be working with other organisations locally to tackle the issue with floating pennywort on the River Chelmer. Groups like the Chelmer Canal Trust have done a fantastic job in keeping the issue under control in recent years, and hopefully by working collaboratively we can build on their work to eradicate this invasive species completely and keep our waterways thriving."


Neil Frost, Trustee of the Chelmer Canal Trust said: "We welcome the ‘action group′ approach to dealing with floating pennywort along the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. 15 years ago the Navigation was close to compete closure, with pennywort completely covering the water from bank to bank and along stretches several hundred metres long.


"Since then significant funding to employ contractors, along with thousands of hours of Chelmer Canal Trust volunteer time, have reduced the problem to one of management to contain new outbreaks.


"Combining our efforts with other partners should enable us to be even more effective and ensure that pennywort continues to have minimal impact on the Navigation, enabling the many who enjoy it and its surroundings to be able to continue to do so."