Following the Dormouse Trail

PUBLISHED: 20:27 13 May 2008 | UPDATED: 21:49 15 June 2010

A NEW walk has officially been declared open at Offwell Woodland Education Centre. The Dormouse Trail was launched last Saturday by the centre's community officer, Lucy Morton, and volunteer Mike Banfield-Potter. Lucy was instrumental in devising the walk

A NEW walk has officially been declared open at Offwell Woodland Education Centre.The Dormouse Trail was launched last Saturday by the centre's community officer, Lucy Morton, and volunteer Mike Banfield-Potter.Lucy was instrumental in devising the walk and unveiled her hard work during an open day at the centre. MP Hugo Swire popped in to offer his support during the afternoon.The centre stands in the former grounds of Offwell House, surrounded by trees, some 100 feet tall, and an encroaching enemy - rhododendron. Staff and volunteers at the centre have spent years clearing the plant, introduced to Victorian gardens in the mid 1800s.The plant is so invasive that nothing can grow in its wake, and only burning can kill large areas of roots.Steve Lawson, director of Offwell Woodland and Wildlife Trust, which runs the centre, says work over the past 20 years has been very successful but is ongoing."It's all about habitat," he told visitors, referring to rare species such as the dormouse and marble white butterfly.The education centre sits in 48 acres of woodland, sheltered by a steep-sided valley.It is a beautiful place, boasting a lake and ponds, but is under-used by the local community. Visitors are welcome seven days a week, but just a handful turned out to support last Saturday's open day.Providing effective countryside education is the cornerstone of the centre's work, mainly establishing the principles of landscape management to preserve habitats.Mr Lawson said: "It is not unusual for a primary school pupil never to have been to a wood before. They ask: 'What's a conifer? What's a broadleaf?'"A senior politician visited us once and was shown a video clip. He thought he'd seen a wolf. In fact, it was a fox. We haven't got wolves in Britain anymore."Dragonflies have lived in Offwell since before dinosaurs roamed the Jurassic coast. And they are still there. Nineteen species have been recorded, so far, and one of them breeds in just two other places in Devon.The centre is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Offwell Fundraising Group.

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