Head for the hills
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