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Ash Dieback – Public Meeting Report


Posted on July 23rd, by Simon (Councillor) in Have You Heard?. 2 comments

Prior to the meeting and for your information this letter from the Badminton Estate was published in the June edition of the Hillesley Happenings newsletter:

As many of you know, Ash die-back is affecting large numbers of trees in this area and it is now affecting a high proportion of the ash trees in the woods between Hawkesbury Upton and Hillesley. Like many local Councils and other landowners, we have already had to take down a large number of roadside trees that have become infected with the disease and we now have to address the diseased trees in the woodlands themselves.

We have been working with the Forestry Commission and have agreed a programme of works to fell the diseased ash trees and to then restore and re-plant the woods with appropriate species, which will include Oak, Sycamore, Beech, Hornbeam, Lime and some lower growing species including Hazel. It is estimated that between 95-98% of all ash trees will be lost to the disease – if we do nothing, the trees will die anyway, and the dead trees then become too dangerous to fell in the normal way.  We are retaining unaffected Ash in the hope that it may survive and all non-Ash species of trees in the woods. We are also trying to retain as much of the understorey of Hazel and other species as we can, though some is inevitably damaged in the process of felling and extracting the diseased ash. Please be assured that the Estate will fully restore the floor of the woodlands when the felling of the diseased ash has been completed, together with any adjoining grass and farmland that is damaged in the felling and extraction process. We will then re-plant all the affected woodlands, and do all we can to ensure that a new crop of trees is established as soon as possible.

Your Parish Council has kindly agreed to arrange a meeting in Hopkins Hall, as soon as the lockdown regulations permit and we will then be happy to discuss our plans more fully with everyone – we hope this is a helpful update in the meantime.

Simon Dring – The Estate Office, Badminton, South Glos, GL9 1DD

Here is our report from the meeting:

Ash Dieback – Background

  • Originally arrived from Asia. First discovered in eastern England. Now widespread throughout the UK
  • Ash dieback is a fungal disease affecting the trees leaves at first. Once the 2 foot outer end of a branch is dead the deterioration is rapid as the tree defoliates with the trunk rotting internally causing the tree to become brittle and very unstable which makes it too dangerous to fell in the traditional manner so specialised equipment is needed
  • Many of our woods are dominated by ash trees as they are prolific seeders and during the post war period it was a cheap and quick way of restoring woods which were devastated due to war time demand and usage

Tree Felling

  • It is acknowledged that in some local woods it does look like a mass felling exercise. As the disease is now so rampant a long term approach couldn’t be taken.  The trees quickly become impossible to handle without serious risk to foresters
  • The disease seems to have accelerated since the dry spell in April/May 2020
  • All the felling needed is being done now now rather than returning in the future avoiding potential damage to new regrowth and replanting
  • Badminton is trying to take the line of least destruction but acknowledge that some is inevitable
  • They are using a combination of approaches depending on the level of infection in each area
  • About 5% of ash trees are not affected and seem to be more resilient.  These will provide the future propagation of the species
  • The priority is to remove the heavily diseased trees and those overhanging footpaths, highways and properties
  • Research and evidence shows that managing woodlands by felling and replanting leads to a much quicker recovery time
  • The estate is following Forestry Commission guidelines, have the relevant licences for felling and went through the correct consultation process
  • Some dead wood is being left as habitat and mulch
  • The majority of the diseased wood is being sent to a biomass power station in Kent.  Some is being sold for firewood and a small percentage is exported for furniture production
  • This is not a profit making exercise as the cost of manpower, equipment and re-planting outweighs any income
  • The project timescale is 2 years and is weather dependent.  It is easier to fell during dry weather and to re-plant in colder months
  • Any damage to tracks or fields will be restored
  • The Estate will monitor woodland as areas of regeneration evolve
  • It is expected that in 10-20 years the recovery will be well underway.  The recovered woodland will be more diverse

Replanting

  • Ecologists have been consulted as there is a need to consider the constraints on ancient woodland sites
  • The effects of global warming have also been considered
  • Seedlings already secured for re-planting are mostly sourced from UK nurseries
  • The replanting species mix is: 25% Oak, 20% Beech, 15% Sycamore, 15% Hornbeam and 25% mixed broadleaves such as Wild Service, Lime and Hazel
  • Whilst the felling work is being done with a heavy heart the Estate sees this as an opportunity to create and restore native woodland with species diversity
  • The seedlings are expected to thrive as tree canopy opens

 

Sally & Simon




2 thoughts on “Ash Dieback – Public Meeting Report

  1. This is such an informative report – very many thanks to Sally and Simon for producing it, and to Simon from the Badminton Estate for the meeting, which I was sorry not to have been able to attend. It explains why there are so many ash trees in the first place, and brings hope, too, in the development of more diverse woodlands in the future, which will help in terms of preventing such devastation by a single disease with increasing climate change.

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