50 Year Project To Protect Red Squirrels Ends

27 September 2011, 13:11 | Updated: 27 September 2011, 13:18

A project to help protect rare red squirrels in Dorset has just finished, after 50 years of work.

Hundreds of volunteers have helped to clear rhododendron bushes from Brownsea Island.

The large, purple flowering shrub, introduced in the 19th century, soon spread across the island's woods, suffocating wild flowers and trees and threatening the survival of one of the last remaining red squirrel populations in southern England.

Regular volunteer Brian March, from Hamworthy, won the chance to make the ceremonial last cut of the plant in a fundraising raffle over this summer.

Abby Gibbs, Dorset Wildlife Trust Warden on Brownsea Island, said: "Brian March represents an incredible volunteer effort since the days of Helen Brotherton, our late President and saviour of Brownsea Island.  Thanks to him and countless others, we now have a good woodland habitat for the precious population of red squirrels and can concentrate on protecting them and the other wildlife of the island."

Any re-growth will be managed by spraying for the next few years.

Brian March, who works as a geologist, said: "It has been an absolute privilege to have volunteered for the DWT over the last 5 years. I would urge everyone to get involved in whatever way you can - from recycling a can every day to putting up a bird feeder or even giving up a day of your time - if everyone makes a small effort then amazing things can be accomplished. To have won this competition is a wonderful surprise and an honour"