Tackling ash dieback at Calke Abbey

Ash dieback will cause loss of trees at National Trust Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

Ash dieback, a disease that causes leaf loss and the crown to die back, is rapidly spreading throughout the UK, causing devastating loss to our woodlands. Many National Trust places have been impacted by ash dieback, including Calke Abbey, where the ranger team are working hard to effectively manage the disease on the estate.

What is ash dieback?

Ash dieback, sometimes called Chalara, is a disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus Fraxineus. The disease was first identified in the UK in 2012 and is rapidly spreading through most areas of England and Wales, potentially affecting 70–95% of Britain’s ash trees.

The fungus is windborne and spreads quickly, affecting the trees from the top down – initially corroding the newest growth before infecting the whole tree. The disease is usually fatal and affected trees can take from 1–30 years to die, although we’re seeing a rapid increase in trees in severe decline this year.

Ash dieback weakens the tree’s structure, making them extremely prone to uprooting, or to dropping limbs from the crown, so we must take action to protect visitors on the estate.

Our response to ash dieback

With thousands of trees affected on National Trust land – including at Calke Abbey – it’s imperative that we appropriately manage the disease, and in some cases, this means felling a significant number of trees for the safety of visitors.

Drawing on guidance from the Forestry Commission, we’ll make sure that we only remove trees that pose a genuine risk to safety. Where safe to do so, it’s important to leave dying ash trees alone, both to identify those that are tolerant to the fungus, and to protect valuable habitats.

How is Calke Abbey affected?

Sadly, the vast majority of ash trees at Calke Abbey have been affected by ash dieback, and work has already started to fell the worst affected trees for the safety of staff, volunteers and visitors.

The first stage of tree felling is now complete; however, the ranger team will conduct annual summer inspections of the ash trees to identify those that will require work in the winter. Sadly, large areas of the roadside, tramway and limeyards have been affected and it is likely that our tree management work will continue for many years to come as more and more ash trees require attention. 

We will continue to update this page with further information, particularly where tree management works may affect the public. 

Replacing lost trees

It’s important that the National Trust maintains the biodiversity and conservation value of our woodlands, and we will ensure that lost ash trees are replaced through planting and natural regeneration, using native species where these are most appropriate.

Calke’s dedicated ranger team are already working towards expanding valuable woodland areas at Calke. Over the past few years, over 10,000 new trees have been planted across the wider estate to enhance the biodiversity of the area – as well as planting more trees within the park walls. Eventually, we’ll replace the lost ash trees along the Tramway Trail with a suitable alternative, to conserve the visual and wildlife values of these important habitats.

How can you help our woodlands?

The management of ash dieback at National Trust properties is the biggest tree management project we’ve ever undertaken, and it’s essential that this work continues despite the ongoing pressures the world is facing today.

Your support means that we can work to replace lost woodland, continue our mission to be carbon neutral by 2030, and restore a natural, healthy environment. Find out more about making a donation to the Everyone Needs Nature appeal via the link below.

Bee on a chive flower at Biddulph Grange Garden, Staffordshire

Help nature to thrive 

Trees that give us life, calming coastlines to walk along and bees that hum in blossoming flowers. Imagine if all this disappeared in the blink of an eye. You can make a difference when you donate today to help look after these natural spaces.