• DWT Botany Group

Pondweed grappling

Having been no further than by local patch of Waldridge since lockdown and the Fell suffering from a large fire a week or so ago I decided I needed to do something a bit different. Looking at local records whilst doing the BSBI Atlas last year I found several species of pondweed and a water-crowfoot had been seen in the past on the river Wear at Chester-le-Street but this was in the 1970s, and not since. Due to time and access restrictions I never got around to looking for them. However to find these water-plants you have to get at them. What is needed is a grappling hook attached to a large length of rope you can throw into the water and pull out bits of weed. At least that's the idea. So where do I get a grappling hook from? I did a bit of research and did you? They were invented by the Romans in approximately 260 BC. The grappling hook was originally used in naval warfare to catch ship rigging so that it could be boarded They typically have multiple hooks (known as claws or flukes), attached to a rope; it is thrown, dropped, sunk, projected, or fastened directly by hand to where at least one hook may catch and hold. Generally, grappling hooks are used to temporarily secure one end of a rope. And .... they may also be used to dredge for submerged objects. Now you're talking! I found a few for sale on the internet but the claws are quite well apart and would not be suitable to catch pondweed and drag it back to shore.

I needed to whisk up my own and here is the result.

Well I didn't say it was brilliant did I?

So off I went down the river armed with my grapple to a very quiet spot I know on the river, though it's rather tricky to get to due to the slippery river bank and the masses of Giant Hogweed. With the weather being so dry it was much easier to get down though I still had to be very careful.

I couldn't see any pondweed, but lots of algae so it was going to be pot luck. The next hour was spent tossing my grapple into the river and pulling back masses of algae but nothing else. Not a sniff of a water-plant as such but at least 3 types of algae by the looks.

I had a look at the riverbank to see what I could find instead and despite the huge amounts of Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam managed to record 90 species of flowering plant. Though the tetrad (2km x 2km square) has been well recorded, this monad (1km square) has very few records due to the access and built up areas so this was rather good. This was especially so when I spotted a couple of yellow flowers on the riverbank. A Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), though fairly common upstream there was only 1 record ever for the whole of NZ25 and that was in 1972.


I was well chuffed and was going to carry on looking when I heard talking and then raised voices and looked behind me to see a young couple gingerly making their way down the steep bank. I knew it was time to move on when I noticed they were carrying a large barbecue and a gas bottle. I smiled and left when they made it to the bottom. The waterweeds can be grappled another day.

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