We hit a bit of a milestone yesterday, removing the LAST of the previously dominating Rhododendron within Penshaw Wood.
In terms of countryside management, Rhododendron is a bit of a baddie. It is native to the Himalayas and was introduced to England as a garden plant in the late 18th century, eventually spreading to many woodland areas. It is a fast-growing and particularly invasive shrub that prevents other species from growing by creating a very shaded woodland floor.
People often rightly point out that the flowers of the Rhododendron are attractive but essentially it has few other attributes that offset the negative impact it can have on a site that it invades, and once it is established it is difficult and time consuming to eradicate.
As we have found out!
As part of the management plan for Penshaw Wood our aim was to remove the Rhododendron on site in its entirety, to provide space and opportunity for native species to flourish and provide a better habitat overall.
It has been a challenge. Rhododendron certainly puts up a fight. If your not getting tripped up by the stuff your getting slapped in the face, scratched, whacked, grazed, scraped, belted, bashed – I could have sworn one time some Rhododendron grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and threw me to the floor.
BUT with our battle scars we have persevered, and using only hand-saws and sheer man-power the Ranger Team, along with regular groups of volunteers, have put in many hours to gradually remove the Rhododendron stronghold.
It was actually one of the first tasks I ever did when I started as a volunteer with the National Trust in 2010. Back then the job seemed endless, and so personally it feels like a massive achievement to now be at the end. It’s very rewarding to see the difference our work has made!
With much more light coming into the woodland than before this will no doubt encourage understory species such as Holly and Hazel to flourish, as well as benefit native tree species such as Ash, Yew and Oak. Other benefits can be seen, with numerous ferns, and signs of wild flowers such as Snowdrop and Ramson, cropping up already.
HOWEVER, although it may be the final chapter for now, there will certainly be many sequels to come.
As stated earlier, Rhododendron is fast-growing and it could quickly re-establish. We now have to keep on top of any regrowth and continue to manage the area in question.
To be continued…