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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 invasive species. 

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.


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