Restoring woodlands affected by ash dieback

A canopy of trees at One Tree Hill

Ash dieback is a devastating disease threatening veteran trees and woodlands.

Changing weather patterns caused by climate change mean we're seeing the worst effects of ash dieback and other diseases at the places in our care. We need your help to replace lost trees.

Historic trees and beautiful woodland, which have inspired the likes of writer Beatrix Potter and landscape painter John Constable, face extinction. Ash dieback is driven by the climate crisis. Mild, wet winters create ideal conditions for disease and pests to spread. Prolonged drought, flooding and high temperatures also mean that the trees are likely to be stressed and more vulnerable to disease. 

The eventual loss of the native ash tree will have a devastating impact on wildlife and biodiversity. We're calling for the issue to be written into the government’s England Tree Strategy, which sets out national commitments around tree planting and woodland creation. 

News update December 2021: thousands of trees to be felled

Large areas of woodland will be lost this winter because of pathogen tree diseases. 

At least 30,000 ash trees are expected to be felled this at a cost of £3m (up from £2m last year) because of ash dieback.

Tens of thousands of larch trees will also be felled across the Lake District after an outbreak of the disease Phytophthora ramorum. Urgent felling will take place at several sites with Holme Wood among the worst affected by the disease. 

Woodlands in the South Lakes have been badly hit, including Tarn Hows and Coniston. Wasdale, Langdale, and Crummock have also been affected. 

A new disease Phytophthora pluvialis (discovered in Cornwall) and an outbreak of the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle in the south-east of England have also raised concerns. 

As part of our ambition to plant and establish 20m trees by 2030, we're planting more climate-resilient plants and creating woodlands that have a diverse range of species in them.

Pictured left: Ash trees being felled at Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire

Tree felling as a result of ash dieback

What is ash dieback?

Ash dieback, caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, originated in Asia and spread to Europe via the global plant trade. With its windborne spores, the fungus spreads quickly, causing leaf loss, bark lesions and dieback in the crown of the tree, where the branches emerge from the trunk.

" Ash trees like those at Beatrix Potter’s Troutbeck Park Farm are some of our most culturally significant trees and have stood for hundreds of years but will now be lost for ever. "
- Luke Barley, national tree and woodland advisor, National Trust
Working to save precious woodland
Dovedale valley in the Peak District

Derbyshire Dales and White Peak

The ‘ravine woods’ of White Peak are largely made up of ash trees, which support some of the richest woodland flora in the UK. This winter around 1,600 ash trees need to be felled across the Peak District and nearly 90 per cent are in the White Peak. This work will cost around £250,000 and we're expecting to spend £1m tackling the problem during the next four to five years.

Holme Wood, Loweswater, Lake District

Lake District

We have a legal obligation to fell all larch trees within 100m of a tree infected by the disease Phytophthora ramorum. The largest area affected in 2021 was Holme Wood above Loweswater, where 75 per cent of the woodland will lose larch. The disease is affecting biodiversity, destroying habitats, taking resource away from daily conservation work and making it harder for us to tackle climate change.

The temple at Sheringham Park

Norfolk

At the beginning of 2021, we had to clear an area of woodland at Sheringham Park because of ash dieback. In its place, we've planted field maple, beech and other broadleaf trees that will provide autumn colour for generations to come. By making sure more natural light can come through the tree canopy we're also helping flowers and insects to thrive.

Cobham Wood, Kent

Kent

There’s been a changing of the guard at Cobham Wood near Gravesend. Centuries-old veteran oak and ash trees are gradually being replaced by a new generation of more climate-resilient trees, including the new elm tree cultivar ‘Lutece’, which is made from four types of elm, two of which are native to the UK.

A healthy tree

Yorkshire Dales

Like in many other limestone and chalk landscapes, ash is the dominant tree species in the Yorkshire Dales, especially on the limestone pavement at Malham Cove. Sadly many of the trees will probably be lost to ash dieback. We're working to recreate woodland that supports nature and adds to the beauty of the area.

Blue sky over the wildflower meadow at Colby

South Wales

Pembrokeshire has suffered badly from the effects of ash dieback this year. This has resulted in a road closure as work was taken to address the problem at Colby Woodland Garden. Sadly, we will be felling around 1,000 trees at Stackpole. Some of the dead wood will be left to create homes for insects, which will provide food for birds and other wildlife. Open woodland glades will also attract butterflies.

Beech woodlands at Hughenden

Help us restore woodlands 

Sadly we're having to fell a record number of trees because of ash dieback. The majority of ash trees (75 – 95 per cent) will be lost during the next 20 to 30 years. Storm Arwen has also caused widespread damage to some of the most precious and unique trees in our care. We need your help to replace lost trees and restore woodlands for future generations to enjoy.