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01 Dec 2022 < Back

Another great conference - #IIWC2022

Conferences can be described as, "the best days work you'll do each year". It depends to some extent on the venue, the event organisation and the speakers, plus the willingness of delegates to engage (with speakers and each other) and be open to new ideas and relationships. We think we scored on all fronts last week and have already had loads of positive feedback. Here we thought we should try to give a flavour of how the event unfolded...

Pre-conference networking

Conferences are a combination of formal and informal networking opportunities. By the time the main show started many delegates had already been networking for 24 hours! There was a lot of socialising and catching-up with old friends and there may have been some invasive weed business discussed too!

We all enjoyed the now infamous pre-conference dinner and social gathering. The aim is to literally break bread with old friends/industry experts and this provides an opportunity to network beyond the short coffee breaks of the conference itself. A group quiz allowed the mental juices to flow with a natural competitiveness bubbling-up as the papers got marked by the neighbouring table. Robert Mitchell’s table won but they shared their prize (chocolates) so everyone was a winner really.

The food was a rolling buffet – and great quality – so you would think everyone was full-up by the end of the night, but someone was still ordering pizzas in the bar at 03.30am! Wonder if he made the first presentation....? But most delegates were bright-eyed and bushy tailed as they arrived at The Slate to register for the event – there is something very special about the air of anticipation in the hall as the first coffee is consumed. With over 150 delegates overall there really was a ‘buzz’ in the place and the caffeine certainly helped to sustain that through the day.

An excellent & diverse conference programme

We had an excellent and diverse programme delivered by an eclectic range of speakers; from Government, the research community, wildlife organisations, consulting ecologists (from Sweden!) and weed management contractors. Each session was themed (“Looking ahead”, “Developments” and “Opportunities & Challenges”) and we covered pretty much every topic imaginable from Regulatory affairs, to Integrated Weed management Plans, Biological control research and Defra’s new Invasive Species strategy.

Good news though, we don’t need to review each presentation here. Our communications team will be sharing copies of the presentations, followed by releasing videos of each of the speakers' presentation. You can either refresh your memory or view them for the first time - but you can only claim the CPD points once though!

Here we’d like to focus on one important subject that cropped-up during the course of the day. Whether the focus was on fringed water lily infestations in Swedish lakes or Japanese knotweed in the Brecon Beacons it’s imperative to have clear goals and ensure the client is fully engaged in the consultation regarding the quality of outcomes.

Planning and Consultation

When Jim Glaister was talking about ‘getting it right’ for residential knotweed clients he asked the rhetorical question “what does a successful outcome look like”? A lot of Knotweed management plans are offered as prescriptive, fixed-term solutions with the primary aim being to get to Completion as soon as possible and at the lowest cost. That’s fine (often driven by client demand) but has the client really understood the limitations of a herbicide spray plan? To cut to the chase, there are many ways to approach Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) management and they all have their pros and cons (see PCA Code of Practice).

Cost is probably the one most residential clients worry about first and foremost, but all CSJK surveyors have a duty of care to ensure that whatever management plan is put in place, their client has been asked to confirm their future intended use of the garden thereby confirming that the management plan is appropriate for that scenario. This is particularly relevant to any rhizomatous perennial INNS so will be equally true for Gunnera, Bamboos (selected species) and the like.

Dr Sophie Hocking (Swansea University) approached this theme when discussing post-remediation re-vegetation strategies. Once again, controlling the INNS is only half the solution especially in semi-natural or wild habitats. She described her PhD project work in which various attempts were made to return a site previously dominated by Japanese knotweed, back to something like its ‘natural’ state. This turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated - mainly because other seed-borne invasive weeds were first colonisers and because her project started nearly 6 years after the remediation work’s first treatments.

Sophie concluded that any project should start with a site inventory (floral history of the site) and clear management goals post remediation. Clearly these goals will themselves be time specific (5, 10, 20 year plan) and site dependent – is it grassland, woodland and/or an SSSI? – but we can’t measure success once the dust has settled unless there is a plan and the client is fully engaged in those discussions. Site re-vegetation is the subject of a PCA Guidance Note and we’d encourage all to read it (after watching all of Sophie’s presentation of course!).

The take-away messages

Looking beyond the knowledge which can be absorbed by the presentations and the opportunity to pick the brains of some industry leading experts, the Conference provided a constant flow of opportunities to exchange information with fellow members and attendees 'outside' of the industry. These exchanges and the follow-up discussions that undoubtedly will happen, generates new perspectives, valuable ideas/business opportunities and life-long friendships.

We will all remember the 2022 pre-conference dinner, those quizzes (and the arguments aboout the answers), the privilege to hear such excellent and inspiring speakers and hope to forget how much coffee we drank on the day!

We look forward to seeing you in 2023.



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