Friends of Markeaton Brook

Balsam 2012

Phew, another himalayan balsam pulling season has now ended. Back to the start of the season and on the initial reconnoitre to ascertain the extent of the balsam, we had the joy of coming across these wild flowers:

  • Ramsons
  • Bluebells – also white and pink
  • White deadnettle
  • Yellow Archangel
  • Lady's Smock (Cuckoo Flower)
  • Buttercup
  • Dandelion
  • Daisy
  • Red Campion
  • Viper’s Bugloss
  • Cow parsley
  • Thyme-leaved speedwell
  • Forget-me-not
  • Arum lilies/Cuckoo pint/Lords & Ladies
Though himalayan balsam does produce pretty flowers to look at and for bees to feed off, too much of this plant leads to soil along the banks of the brooks being washed away into it. We don't want the brooks to silt up hence we go out to pull out himalayan balsam.

This year we have managed to do 50 hours pulling. Thank you to all those who put the time and effort in. It does and will make a huge difference in improving the environment of the brooks. This year we have some extra help from BTCV (or just TCV as they now want to be known as) who have managed to pull outside the Derby city boundary. The further up the catchment area we can pull, the less himlayan balsam that ends up downstream.

Bat Walk and Moth Watch May 2012

On what turned out to be a rare pleasant evening for this season, we held a bat walk and moth watch in association with Wild Derby, the University of Derby and the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Entomological Society (DaNES) along Markeaton Street from Britannia Mill to the Mill Pond and Sturgess Fields. 

While the folks from DaNES laid out their kit, Trevor Taylor handed out the bat detectors, ready to tune onto the bats' sonar signals. We roamed up and down alongside the water course in Markeaton Street eagerly listening out for the bat detectors to chirp and looking out for bats to dart over our heads but it was still way too early for the bats to start venturing out yet. Eventually, when the light began to fade, the flighty silhouettes of these nocturnal mammals were seen above the Mill Pond and there was a scramble to turn the bat detector dials to home in on the frequencies. Gradually, as we got used to the darkness, the more we spotted bats skimming over us and from the beeps from the detectors, Trevor's expert knowledge identified the bats heard.

When everybody had their fill of bats, it was time to turn the attention to the moths. It was a cold night so initially there were few moths attracted to the bright lights. However, as the night went on (around midnight) the moths started to come out. Soon, there was a huge array of moths trapped and placed into specimen bottles to make identification easier.

Many thanks are due to Trevor, the folks from DaNES, Wild Derby and the University of Derby for enabling this event to happen. 

Balsam 2011

As some of you know we decided to tackle the Balsam problem earlier this year for two reasons. One because if we can pull it before it flowers then we can be sure that it will not seed and give us a headache for the future, and two because we are determined to beat the wretched stuff so that we can turn our attention to other matters concerning the brook and our objectives(raising awareness etc). We started at the beginning of May.

We believe that our efforts have been successful, possibly aided by the dry spring giving a lower germination rate than usual. We have pulled large quantities of the plant, before it grows too big, and while it is young it is easy to pull out. A lot of effort has been put into the Council Depot off the Mundy Play Centre Car Park and Markeaton Park itself. Penny (Secretary) and Joe (Treasurer) have done sterling work in their chest waders, getting into the brook and pulling from the watercourse, getting to grips with balsam that cannot be pulled from the bank.

This year’s squad has included Gwen Miller, Cynthia Sims, Brenda Hitchcock, Rosemary Reeves, Dawn Wilson, Dave Bennett and Nick Ashton Jones. As readers of these pages are aware, Friends of Markeaton Brook are part of the Mercaston and Markeaton Brook Project (MMB) which is led by the National Trust and includes such partners as FWAG (Farmers Wildlife Advisory Group) Wild Derby (City Council), Flood Prevention (City Council), ourselves, local farmers and the Friends of Markeaton Park. The main aim of the group is to tackle the issue of silting and work is done the whole length of the brook from where it rises at Mercaston.

The MMB Project has obtained funding from SITA the waste disposal company which has funded a Project Leader, Kath Stapley, who talked to us at our AGM in 2010. Some of the funding was used to pay BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) for a four day stint to clear Balsam from Brook Walk. The National Trust Volunteers worked with us to clear the area immediately below the bridge on the Mackworth Road. That was entertaining with a Canadian Canoe being used to load pulled balsam into and this was then emptied onto the bank. Many thanks go to Kath Stapley for her very hands on approach that day, and also Big Dave and Mike the Canoe.

BTCV have already cleared areas further up the catchment in the SSSI site at Mugginton With these upstream areas cleared, control in the lower sections is possible. We feel that these are giant strides towards making the brook, if not balsam free, then at least an area where the weed is manageable.

To say a huge thank you to our volunteers everyone involved, MMB project members and pullers alike were invited to our End of Season BBQ in early September. We held the event again on Mundy Rec just off the Mackworth Road near Brittania Mill and we were really pleased that we had our new (to us) Gazebo to help shelter us from typical BBQ weather!!! Perhaps we shall have better luck next year!! During the winter months we shall be planning next year’s campaign, hoping once more to be off to an early start and that this year’s efforts will reduce the amount of work we shall need to do next year. Penny and I have made resolutions not to fall in the brook at all next season!!!


Litter has been steadily building up in and along the brook for some years now. Some of you will have joined in previous litter picks that we have done on a regular basis, lead by Judith Overton. However, we were approached in May by the Management of Derby Student Residences Ltd who operate the Halls of Residence along the brook, with a view to enlisting our help with a day of litter picking on the stretch of the brook by Nuns Street. The date was set for Sunday 22nd May. We contributed our knowledge of litter disposal, access to the brook, waders, gloves, litter pickers and a few willing volunteers. The Halls of Residence mustered a number of limber young workers, including students and a good session was held, shifting such items as the obligatory shopping trolley, a mattress, pushchair, innumerable bottles and cans and just general junk, all carted away by Street Pride. The Halls of Residence also provided a very welcome Breakfast Butty and coffee!!

We have high hopes of holding another joint litter pick in the New Year to tackle the litter situation along Brook Walk. Most of you will agree that the litter is an eyesore once the vegetation dies down, so as many volunteers as possible will be welcome to help on that day, so please keep eyes peeled for details on the website nearer the time.

Sadly though we have to report an act of vandalism as Judith, our litter picker leader, was targeted by a group of teenagers who stole litter picking equipment, including the trolley used for transportation. Judith was not physically hurt, but obviously such an act was unsettling. Not daunted though, Judith continues.


Being involved with the Halls of Residence over litter picking, we were invited to attend one of their Footprint Events for the new influx of students early in September. Footprint raises awareness of students on environmental issues such as recycling and energy saving and we were there with our display panels depicting the work we do, and also with our maps of the catchment of the brook within the city, which shows how closely the University buildings are to the brook and how university activities can impact on the brook and its wildlife.


Apple Day

Apple day fell this year on October 19th and the following Sunday saw us in Markeaton Park supporting Apple Core, Markeaton Park’s Healthy Gardens Project – for more information see Again we had our display panels depicting our work and they attracted considerable interest and our mailing list expanding again.

Apple Day 2011  Apple Day 2011

Apple Day 2011  Apple Day 2011


Display Panels

Our display panels depicting the history, wildlife and activities of our group have been on display at Pickfords House Museum for several months. These were removed by the new museum staff and are currently back in our storage until we can find another secure venue for them. If any organisation would like the loan of the panels please get in touch.