A MAJOR conservation project has started at a 30 acre woodland site bought by Borough of Poole earlier this year.

Arrowsmith Coppice, formerly part of the Canford Estate, Poole, was purchased as part of The Great Heath Project, a Dorset Wildlife Trust-led initiative to protect and conserve the borough’s heaths and woodlands.

Funded with National Lottery cash, the initial work will be to clear plants around a stream at the centre of the coppice, ahead of a bridge being built to enhance public access.

Borough of Poole biodiversity officer Jez Martin 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.”

Mr Martin explained Rhododendrons can readily colonise areas if allowed to grow unchecked.

“They will grow until they shade out the underlying vegetation, killing the vegetation and the animal life which it supports,” he added.

Work has already started to clear a large area of the plants from the southwest corner of the coppice, an area covering around 4.25 acres.

When the woodland bridge is built it will connect the laybys on Gravel Hill and Arrowsmith Road.

Poole council’s environment spokesman Cllr Xena Dion said: “We are committed to managing Poole’s heaths and woodlands responsibly and we take 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.”

Meanwhile, Merley and Bearwood, ward councillor David Brown 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.”