Head for the hills

Surrey Life - - Countryside Life -

of all ash trees and ash is very preva­lent here in Sur­rey. Ash Dieback was first no­ticed in Poland in the 1990s. It was first iden­ti­fied in Bri­tain in 2012 and, since then, has spread at an alarm­ing rate. It could mean the near ex­tinc­tion of ash trees in this coun­try, sim­i­lar to what we ex­pe­ri­enced in the 1970s with Dutch Elm dis­ease.

Wood­land own­ers, wildlife agen­cies and the Forestry Com­mis­sion are cur­rently de­bat­ing the best way to han­dle this threat but it is con­tro­ver­sial. Some ash trees are show­ing re­sis­tance, so some ex­perts say we should let na­ture take its course by let­ting the dis­easere­sis­tant ash spread their seed. How­ever, there is a se­vere health and safety risk as the dy­ing wood be­comes brit­tle, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to fell safely once in­fected. Branches are also prone to fall off un­ex­pect­edly, pos­ing risk to peo­ple out walk­ing on wood­land paths.

It may be up­set­ting for tree lovers, but we may see some fairly harsh felling of ash trees along our favourite foot­paths this win­ter, be­fore birds start nest­ing again in the spring. How­ever landown­ers need to keep peo­ple safe on their land and there­fore need to take ac­tion.

It may well be dras­tic, but we need to recog­nise that some ar­eas of wood­land will have to be felled in the in­ter­ests of pub­lic safety. Although this of­ten makes the area look some­what des­o­late in the short term, na­ture is very re­silient and by the fol­low­ing sum­mer these ar­eas are of­ten trans­formed. Felling ar­eas of wood­land is also ben­e­fi­cial to some species of fauna and flora, such as blue­bells and but­ter­flies, so it is not all bad news.

By Chris Howard, vice pres­i­dent of the Sur­rey Hills So­ci­ety For more in­for­ma­tion visit: sur­rey­wildlifetrust. org/ashdieback or forestry. gov.uk/ ashdieback

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