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Work to revitalise Stapleford Wood, near Newark, Nottinghamshire, has been given a major boost with a lush carpet of purple heather bursting through the forest floor.
Over the past two years, the Forestry Commission has been working on a blueprint to return the 750 acre beauty-spot back to its ancient roots as a broadleaf wood, while tackling invasive rhododendron growth.
The oriental plant was probably first planted by the Victorians, but has since taken a massive stranglehold. Growing up to seven metres tall in some areas, it has killed off trees and many other plants and discouraged wildlife.
Now a push to combat the problem by uprooting it from 75 acres of choked woodland has caused heather to germinate from long dormant seed. Forester Matt Brocklehurst explained:
“With most of the rhododendrons gone, light has been able to penetrate to the floor, triggering the heather seed. It may have been in the soil for at least 70 years, waiting for precisely this moment. We know from documents that rhododendrons were becoming a problem by the start of the last century. But once such a fast growing plant gains a hold, then other flora and wildlife inevitably suffer. This is the first year we have had a strong show of flowering heather. It’s a wonderful sight to behold.”
Other areas of the wood are still badly affected by rhododendrons and foresters are predicting it will take decades to eradicate the problem. Special machines are being used for the task, which leave other ground flora relatively undisturbed.
The restoration plan at Stapleford is the biggest of its kind in the Trent Valley. After 1945, the wood was planted with Scots and Corsican pine, but surveys have revealed it was once an ancient wood, dating back more than 400 years. That caused forest chiefs to re-think their options and embark on a radical, back to nature, transformation. Over the next 50 years all but a handful of conifers will be removed and replaced with species like oak, rowan and willow through natural regeneration. Wildflowers will return, together with more birds, butterflies and mammals.
Note to editor
Stapleford Wood was clear felled during the First World War and bought by the Forestry Commission in 1945 from its owner, Trinity College, Cambridge. Ancient woodlands are defined as being over 400 years old. For more on the Forestry Commission visit www.forestry.gov.uk. The Forestry Commission manages 35,000 acres of woods in Lincolnshire and the East Midlands.
The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk
Media calls to Richard Darn on 01226 246351. Mobile: 0775 367 0038.