|In 1986, more than 90% of the Woodland Education Centre was covered in a
thick, impenetrable Rhododendron jungle.
Often towering 25 feet above head
level, the twisted tangled branches and trunks of this alien species made it impossible to
enter many areas of the site, even on foot. Rhododendron does not support any
British wildlife. Work started in 1986 to clear and control the return of
Rhododendron. Work is still ongoing, over the years more than 100 people have
spent many hours of hard, back breaking work cutting, clearing and burning the
Much of the reserve has now been cleared of Rhododendron and valuable wildlife habitats
have been reinstated. However, without continuous management the Rhododendron would soon
return. Remaining stumps send out new shoots and every year new saplings emerge from
the ground (see the Husk). The plant was introduced to
Offwell early in the Victorian era by Dr Copleston, Bishop of LLandarf who created a
pleasure garden where the Woodland Education Centre now exists. The end of the
Victorian era, two world wars and other effects meant that fewer people were available to
manage the gardens, and over many years it fell into disrepair, with the Rhododendron
proliferating and spreading out of control.
Learn more about rhododendron here.