Safety Alert Giant Hogweed



Introduced by the Victorians this relation of Cow Parsley can grow up to 5m tall and is common on wasteland and riverbanks. The sap it produces reacts with sunlight on skin causing severe chemical burns and blistering even years after contact. The harmful effects may not be noticed for some considerable time during contact increasing the likelihood of greater contact to the toxic sap.

Giant Hogweed can be confused with Hogweed when its growth is stunted. Children often use the stems for pea shooters which lead to hand/facial blistering however exposure and subsequent burns can be sustained by merely brushing past the leaves or handling contaminated clothes.

Taken from

TREATMENT - If you come into contact with the sap IMMEDIATELY wash the affected area with copious amounts of water and soap then cover. Seek medical advice.



Learn to recognise Giant Hogweed and teach children of its dangers

Avoid and isolate areas with Giant Hogweed present

Assume Hogweed could be stunted Giant Hogweed

DO NOT attempt to remove Giant Hogweed as this is an operation that requires specialist protection instead ISOLATE and REPORT to the Landowner.

Giant Hogweed and the law

It is illegal to plant Giant Hogweed in the wild potentially leading to a fine and up to 2 years imprisonment however there is no legal obligation for a landowner to remove it under law that controls the spread of invasive species.

However, land owners are required to provide a duty of care to those on their land including trespassers. Any injury resulting from Giant Hogweed could result in criminal or civil proceedings against the land owner.

PICTURES Chemical burns sustained by exposure to Giant Hogweed. These will reoccur to varying degrees for years with exposure to sunlight.

SAFETY Giant Hogweed



I've seen quite a lot of what looks like Giant Hogweed recently particularly near the Green Dragon Inn in Lymm but it appears to be all over the place especially near rivers. This coupled with recent media attention about Giant Hogweed has really got me confused.

You'd think Giant Hogweed would have the highest status with regards to the law but there are worse offenders but none seem as insidious as Giant Hogweed. Firstly it resembles hogweed and cow parsley both comparatively benign. Giant Hogweed sap however causes severe chemical burns but not straight away - it takes exposure to light to cause the activation of the sap so that children can play among it and continue to come into contact with the poisonous sap. Its only later that they develop serious blistering. Even just brushing past it or handling contaminated clothing is enough to be burned and at the time you may not even notice.

The plant also produces 1,000s of seeds so it requires year on year treatment and takes over riverbanks so ecologically wise is pretty bad. And yet its not illegal to have this on your land only to plant. This means you have areas full of Giant Hogweed where land owners aren't aware or don't care or can't afford to have it managed. The Giant Hogweed takes over, the seeds spread enter a water course and drift to other areas.

I believe it should be illegal not only to plant but also to fail to have a management strategy on your land for Giant Hogweed. Subsidies should be in place to help land owners have this professionally removed (it takes specialists to remove it safely and disposing the waste produced has legal implications). Each water course needs an effective overarching strategy to ensure there are no secret Giant Hogweed havens producing seeds which then enter the river.

Until then children (who are  affected the most) and others will have to rely on awareness to protect them so please feel free to pass on our safety post which follows this.

See here to identify:

Who do you trust with your children?

CONTACT US for free advice and guidance.

CONTACT US for free advice and guidance.

We've had a number of complaints and anecdotes about another outdoor education company that claims they are a forest school provider. Its always sad to hear people haven't had the positive experience they expected.  Often these experiences are fun until something goes wrong. Some of these stories are outrageous so its best to make sure things are legitimate before you hand over your loved ones.

As part of our advice to schools service built on my 15 years experience in education we prepared a safety bulletin for schools some time ago which we'd like to share again because it seems the message isn't getting through. Please feel free to share any of the links.

As a parent I would strongly recommend that you scrutinise any forest school nursery or holiday club that is for kids only i.e. parents drop off in the morning. You can view what they need to do in this document. Basically if they're doing more than 2 activities and parents aren't about then they need to register. If they haven't then you need to think why not?

Do they have a facebook page? Have a look at the reviews and not just the positive ones. How did they react when things went wrong?

If you have problems with any organisation that claims to be a forest school then you can report them to the Forest School Association. There is a code of good practice they should follow. See our bulletin here.

Nobody find Risk Assessment particularly exciting but as a parent you want to know the company you're taking your children to has done its homework. Don't be embarrassed to ask for a risk assessment. See our original bulletin here.

Like Risk Assessments they should have Public Liability Insurance to cover any eventuality. btw if they're using land without permission then its probably not valid so make sure they've got a licence agreement. See original bulletin here.

Are they as they should be? A CRB/DBS tells you that. Is it as clean as you think? As a parent you have a right to query this to make sure staff are competent and safe. Or will you just take it on trust. See our CRB bulletin here.

See our competency bulletin here.

Its certainly worth having a conversation about these safeguards and don't feel embarrassed. You as a parent/carer/teacher have a right (in fact a duty) to make sure everything's above board and any company working with children recognises that and can provide what you need no questions asked.

Enjoy the holidays!