Wild at Heart
Reproduced by kind permission of the Countryman magazine

Enormous pleasure and wonder mingle on their faces because the basic information they were given has opened up a new world of knowledge to them and all the other schoolchildren and older students who visit the centre.

Few children today run wild in the countryside, picnicking in fields, and having adventures in woodland and on river banks.  It's sad that this vital connection with nature has been lost and with it the knowledge enabling them to enjoy and learn from the environment. But here at Offwell they can make up for that loss, having fun while also exploring a variety of wildlife habitats via lots of hands-on practical activities.

Set in a steep sided and wooded south facing valley the 50 acre centre, managed by the Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust in partnership with the Forestry Commission, was originally a Victorian pleasure garden, built by the Copleston family some 200 years ago. In those days exotic plants were collected from abroad by intrepid employees of aristocratic families and plant nurseries. All these new plants were widely grown throughout England, reflecting affluence and power, rhododendrons, in particular, becoming popular - and these are still growing at Offwell.
When I visited the Centre, I was shown around by Steve Lawson, the Director of the Trust, who said wryly, "50 acres of land when we started, with 48 sterile acres of rhodos. "
The enormous initial task of removing and controlling the invasive rhododendrons began in 1986. The removal of these tall and vigorous plants, together with sympathetic management, has brought about the recolonisation of the area by native plants and their attendant animal species. This has allowed the Centre to become an area of great conservation value, and to be designated a County Wildlife Site.


Page 1

Page 2 of 5

Next Page.