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Conservation works at Arrowsmith Coppice

Borough of Poole has started a major conservation project at Arrowsmith Coppice to help conserve and enhance the area, bringing additional benefits to local wildlife and the community.

Previously forming part of Canford Estate, most of this 30 acre (12 ha) site is dominated by Rhododendrons, a non native invasive plant. The thick plant growth is preventing the natural regeneration of the woodland and is smothering an area of rare heathland. In addition it is also preventing public access to nearly all of the area.

Arrowsmith Coppice was purchased earlier this year, as part of The Great Heath Project, and is now owned and managed by Borough of Poole. Works have begun to clear a large area of Rhododendrons in the southwest corner of Arrowsmith Coppice, covering approximately 4.25 acres (1.7 ha), for the benefit of wildlife and local people.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, initial work is focused on clearing the plants around a stream in the middle of the site, allowing a bridge to be erected. The bridge will connect the laybys on Gravel Hill Road and Arrowsmith Road, encouraging public access into this site. Further clearance of Rhododendron will be carried out in phases later in the year.

Jez Martin, Project Officer Biodiversity, Borough of Poole, said: "Works will focus on areas where thick growth of Rhododendrons is having a negative impact on local wildlife as well as affecting the condition of this heath and woodland.

"Although these works may appear quite drastic, heaths and woodlands cannot survive without some form of management. Rhododendrons can readily colonise areas and if they are not controlled by cutting, they will grow until they shade out the underlying vegetation killing the vegetation and the animal life which it supports."

Councillor Xena Dion, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for the Environment, Borough of Poole, said: “We are committed to managing Poole's heaths and woodlands responsibly and we take the protection and conservation of its flora and the wildlife, to which it is home, extremely seriously. To do this we must take steps to preserve Poole's nature conservation sites as a legacy for future generations to enjoy."

Councillor David Brown, Ward Member for Merley and Bearwood, said: "This area has long been inaccessible to the local community, and it is only by working in partnership with like-minded organisations such as the Dorset Wildlife Trust that this 30 acre site will be opened up for people to visit and enjoy our natural surroundings."

The Great Heath Project, led by Dorset Wildlife Trust, is a partnership that includes Borough of Poole, Poole Harbour Commissioners, Dorset County Council Countryside Services, the Erica Trust and Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust.