Bishop Copleston

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No history of the Woodland Education Centre would be complete without mentioning Dr Copleston.  This Victorian Bishop owned the valley which is now occupied by the Centre.  He had the area as a pleasure garden and created many walks and other features such as two small boating lakes.  Unfortunately he also planted rhododendron which by 1986 had virtually completely covered the 50 acre reserve.  This resulted in the eradication of native plants and animals.  Work since that time has been undertaken to restore the Centre so that there is a wide variety of high quality habitats which now even support endangered species such as the dormouse and dragonflies.  Dr Copleston was Bishop of Llandaff and Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London until his death in 1849. 

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Iron age man, the Romans and Saxons all lived within the vicinity of the village of Offwell which borders the reserve.  The wildlife today is somewhat different to that in ancient times as bears died out in 1000AD although wolves survived until the 16th century.  Even further back in time, hippopotamuses roamed the area, the skull of one of them can be seen to this day in the Honiton Museum.


In prehistoric times the area was underneath the sea and within one mile of the Centre there were significant deposits of limestone. These were quarried up until the early part of the 20th century.  There is an area in the Centre where harts tongue fern and ash predominate.  This is thought to be due to the presence of limestone in that area which has resulted in an alkaline soil condition which has virtually excluded rhododendron.