Woodland Restoration Project
SITE DESCRIPTIONThe Woodland Education Centre is situated in a steep wooded valley on the southern outskirts of the village of Offwell. The site designated for clearance under the Woodland Project is located on the northeast boundary of the Centre (Map Fig.1).
The project site is bounded by paths on its northern, western and southern perimeters (Fig.2). To the southeast of the site there is a small plantation of large conifers (Douglas Fir). The southeastern boundary is marked by a hedgebank (Fig.2). There is a further hedgebank running from NE - SW in the centre of the site (Fig.2) This indicates that the area was originally covered by old field systems. The underlying bedrock is greensand.
The northern perimeter of the site is notable for the presence of several very large old oak trees, located just to the side of the path. These oaks have girths in excess of 250cm and are over 25m in height. They are part of an oak wood which continues northwards up the hill.
The shaded area (Fig.2) denotes an area which was cleared of rhododendron in a pilot project two years ago. This area has therefore already had two years to regenerate after removal of the rhododendron. The path on the northern boundary of the project site was cut into the rhododendron to allow access to the pilot project site at this time. The path does not therefore mark the boundary of the rhododendron, which continues northwards up the slope under the previously mentioned oak wood..
The vegetation on the site before clearance consisted almost exclusively of rhododendron and silver birch, oak, rowan and holly trees which had grown above the level of the rhododendron before it completely dominated the area .
Four different sampling sites (squares 1-4) were chosen to reflect differences in the rhododendron cover across the site. The surface of the soil in the region of square 1 was shallow and covered in large flints (Fig.2). In this area there were many very tall, slender silver birch trees. The rhododendron here was also tall and grew in a more upright, tree-like form than elsewhere (Plate 2). In the region of square 2 (Fig.2), the rhododendron was extremely dense and impenetrable. The plants here formed a tightly interlinked web of horizontal stems and branches, growing downhill (Plate 3). The extreme eastern end of the site covered by square 4 was more open, with rhododendron intermediate in form between 1 and 2 (Plate 4). Square 3 covered the area which had already been cleared of rhododendron (Plate 5).