Ash dieback

A healthy tree

Along with many other organisations, we're concerned about ash dieback, a fungal disease that's affecting many woodlands, parks and gardens across the country. We're doing all we can to manage the disease in Gloucestershire.

There are an estimated 80 million ash trees in the UK, helping to shape some of our best loved landscapes. They make up a third of our entire tree population. It's thought that over 90% of these trees will be lost to the disease, having a devastating impact on the countryside and biodiversity of our woodlands. 

Ash dieback in Gloucestershire

In Gloucestershire we care for around 850 hectares of woodland. Ash trees are a common feature in these woods as well as in the wider landscape. Sadly ash dieback is now present in all the woodlands we manage in the county.

The extremely dry spring coupled with the thin limestone soils of the Cotswolds has resulted in the rapid deterioration of infected trees - making Gloucestershire one of the most severely affected areas in Britain in 2020.

Young buzzard perched in an ash tree
Young buzzard perched in an ash tree
Young buzzard perched in an ash tree

What is ash dieback?

Ash dieback, Chalara or Chalara dieback is a disease that affects ash trees and is caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. The disease originated in Asia and its spread attributed to the movement of plants as part of the global trade. The fungus spreads quickly as its spores are windborne. 

Symptoms

Ash dieback can affect ash trees of all ages, although younger trees succumb to the disease much quicker. As the name suggests, the disease causes ash trees to slowly die, drop limbs or branches, collapse or fall.

Signs of the disease include;

  • Leaves developing dark patches in the summer. They then wilt, turn black and begin to fall to the ground
  • Dark brown lesions develop where branches meet the trunk
  • Shoots, especially those on the crown dieback during the summer

Once a tree is infected the disease is usually fatal. There is no cure, but some trees are less susceptible than others.

Ash tree flower
Ash tree flower
Ash tree flower

Our response

Over the spring and summer, the ranger team has been assessing and monitoring the health of the ash trees on land that we manage. As a result of these surveys, we have identified a large number of trees across the portfolio that pose a risk to public safety and unfortunately are now in urgent need of felling.

Tree felling as a result of ash dieback
Tree felling as a result of ash dieback
Tree felling as a result of ash dieback

Not all affected ash trees will be felled. Wherever it's safe to do so, we'll be leaving both standing and fallen deadwood so that wildlife can benefit. The felling will only take place in high risk zones where infected trees pose a risk to public safety. This includes those that are along public highways, rights of way, well used paths, permissive routes and near residential areas and car parks. 

The felling works will take place at;

  • Newark Park
  • Crickley Hill
  • Woodchester Park
  • Haresfield Beacon and Standish Wood
  • The Stroud commons
  • Coaley Peak
  • Pope's Wood
  • Littleworth Wood
  • Dover's Hill
  • Horton
  • Chedworth
  • Ebworth
  • Sherborne Park Estate

The work is being carried out by specialist contractors. 

Restricted access and diversions

There may be temporary road closures and restricted access along some routes and pathways during these essential works. Where this is the case, we'll ensure that temporary diversions are in place to keep residents, contractors and visitors safe. We'll keep the disruption to a minimum.

Woodland recovery

Despite the tragic loss of trees, we'll be seizing the opportunity to increase the biodiversity in areas hardest hit. Where we've removed dying ash trees, we'll leave some areas to naturally regenerate, in others we'll replant with native broadleaves like beech, whitebeam, cherry and oak, while in others you'll see us adopt a mixture of both types of woodland management.

A young tree
A young tree
A young tree

Our long-term aim is to improve the resilience of the woodlands against threats such as climate change and disease. By increasing species diversity alongside improving the natural age structure of the woodlands we can help their long-term survival.