News Round-Up

New imagery reveals scale of ash dieback devastation on British woodlands

A month after the National Trust announced the devastation being caused by an acceleration of ash dieback across its woods, the conservation charity has issued a set of exclusive images and film footage highlighting the impact of the disease.

The images and footage clearly show the dying ash trees in Hanging Wood on the Hughenden Estate in Buckinghamshire, part of the 460 hectares of woodland it cares for in the Chilterns.  

Approximately 300 trees which pose a risk to public safety will be felled on the estate this year with others left to die and decay naturally to create homes for wildlife.  

The charity estimates 40,000 ash trees will need to be chopped down on land it cares for over the next few months, costing millions of pounds.  

Ash trees form up to 20 per cent of woodland in Britain.  Between 75 – 95 per cent of all ash trees will be lost in the next 20-30 years, with an estimated 2.5 million trees on National Trust land alone. 

Neil Harris, Countryside Manager for the National Trust says: “The stark reality of the impact of ash dieback on our countryside is very visible at this time of year.  This deadly disease is killing many of the trees in our woodland.

“Some of our woodland had previously been ravaged by tree loss back in January 1990 when severe storms uprooted hundreds of large beech trees.  Fast growing ash trees quickly filled the gaps where these giants had fallen and it’s these younger ash trees which are being affected the most.  

“One of the additional issues we now face is the length of time it will take other types of native trees to re-colonise where ash trees have to be felled, given that re-planting with ash is no longer a viable option until resistant strains have been confirmed.  

“It’s vital that we replace ash with a wider range of appropriate tree species to ensure continuity of habitat and provide all the other benefits of trees and woodland, including carbon sequestration and the simple pleasure many people take in visiting them. The loss of ash adds further impetus to the Trust’s ambition to establish 20 million new trees on land in our care by 2030.”

Neil concluded: “The one positive is that so far we’ve found that older trees grown in more open areas seem to be more resilient to the disease.  When the trees do die they become very brittle and therefore difficult to fell which is why it is important to remove those bordering paths as a priority.  

“We will leave many in the thick of the woodland to die naturally so that they can provide habitats for wildlife as they decay.”

In addition to tackling the issue of ash dieback, the National Trust earlier this year announced its ambition to plant or establish 20 million trees in the next decade.  For more information or to make a donation towards the National Trust’s tree planting ambitions, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/plant-a-tree 

Header image: The devastating effects of ash dieback are clearly visible in woodland on the Hughenden Estate in Buckinghamshire. Credit: John Miller.