A Hampshire finance team has turned to nature to help a Hampshrie charity.

More used to number crunching than wading in streams, the finance team for The Southern Co-operative spent a day volunteering with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust in the New Forest to help eradicate invasive non-native Himalayan balsam.

The volunteering was undertaken as part of the Source to Sea Project, a partnership between Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) and Dorset Wildlife Trust to get rid of non native invasive plants such as Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed, among others that threaten to overwhelm native wildlife in the waters and on the banks of the internationally important Hampshire Avon river catchment.

Daily Echo:

Twenty-four colleagues from The Southern Co-operative’s finance team who are normally based at its central support office in Portsmouth spent the day pulling up the invasive plants at Ditchend Brook in Fordingbridge, guided by Joanne Gore, source to sea field officer for HIWWT.

She said: “Having such a large team of volunteers from The Southern Co-operative meant that we could remove all the balsam present on the tributary in one day.

“That prevents the plants seeding and massively reduces the problem”.

Joanne is always looking for people to help in the battle against the balsam.

She added: “Himalayan balsam is easy to pull up and it’s incredibly satisfying as you can immediately see that you’ve made a difference. It is also an opportunity to explore some beautiful areas of countryside and see lots of interesting wildlife.”

Colleagues working for The Southern Co-operative are actively encouraged to volunteer for local good causes in work time and as a result contributed over 4,800 hours of volunteering in 2013 across southern England.

The business also supports the work of HIWWT as a corporate partner.

Greg Wilkins, group financial controller for The Southern Co-operative said: “Everyone from our team was involved, from our accounts clerks to the Finance Director. It was good to get out of the office and away from our desks to interact as a team in a different way.

“We were certainly out of our comfort zone – clambering through brambles and nettles, getting wet and falling in the stream, but it was a rewarding day!”