Tackling ash dieback across the Peak District

Contractors in Dovedale tackling ash dieback

As a nation, we are now witnessing the dramatic widespread affects of ash dieback, with many ash trees across the UK now showing signs of the fungal disease. Ash dieback continues to impact the health of the woodlands in the White Peak and now many of the woodlands across the Peak District. Our rangers have a plan in place to promote species other than ash to make sure these inspiring woodlands thrive into the future.

How does ash dieback affect the trees in the Peak District?

Ash dieback is caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus; it is also commonly known as ‘Chalara’ after an old scientific name.

The fungal disease originated in Asia and more than likely arrived in mainland Europe and now the UK thanks to the movement of plants as part of global trade. The fungus spreads quickly as its spores are windborne, then begins to affect the trees from the top down – initially corroding the most recent growth on the outside of the crown, and slowly affecting the whole tree. Individual trees vary in their resistance and can take from 1-30 years to perish after being infected.

 

Ash dominated woodlands in the White Peak

Many of the woodlands in the White Peak are made up of around 80% ash trees and the current estimate is that 6 out of 7 ash trees will die as a result of ash dieback. The disease weakens the tree's structure making them extremely prone to uprooting and therefore unsafe to be around. Visitors can identify trees affected by ash dieback that are due to be felled this year by looking for the red dots on selected trees near paths and roadsides.

You will notice the red dots that have appeared - if you take a closer look on these trees you will see the clear signs of ash dieback
You will notice the red dots that have appeared - if you take a closer look on these trees you will see the clear signs of ash dieback
You will notice the red dots that have appeared - if you take a closer look on these trees you will see the clear signs of ash dieback

Our response to tackling ash dieback

As part of their Tree Safety Work, our rangers have carefully assessed the areas where infected ash trees will cause a high health and safety risk to people or property and will therefore need to fell the infected trees to remove the risk and to also give our other native trees in the area the best chance of reproducing naturally.

Our ranger teams across the Peak District have various Woodland Projects that have the aims to help our woodlands to be better equipped to face climate change and diseases like ash dieback. With our woodlands, particularly in the White Peak, currently being dominated by ash this makes them vulnerable to diseases like ash dieback. Despite what will be a tragic loss of trees, our team will be seizing the opportunity to increase the diversity of tree species in the areas hit hardest by ash dieback, by planting native tree species and allowing areas with other species already present to set seed themselves. Trees being planted will include hazel, rock whitebeam, wych elm and lime, which would have populated the woodlands before the ash became dominant in certain areas. Through this work, visitors will also see new views of the places they love to visit, including some of the spectacular once hidden rock formations and will also open up new spaces for flora to grow, which in turn creates new habitats for nature to live in.

Our teams of rangers in the White Peak are tackling ash dieback to keep pathways safe for the public
Our teams of rangers in the White Peak are tackling ash dieback to keep pathways safe for the public
Our teams of rangers in the White Peak are tackling ash dieback to keep pathways safe for the public

Woodland Management

Creating some open areas in our woods is also simply good woodland management, mimicking natural conditions and benefiting the many woodland species that need light, open areas in order to thrive – such as birds like spotted flycatchers, wood warblers and willow tits that flit amongst the tree canopy. We’ll also improve the woodland infrastructure with new boundary fences in some places to keep livestock out, and nest boxes for dormice and endangered birds like willow and marsh tit.

 

LIFE in the Ravines

The LIFE in the Ravines partnership project, led by Natural England, will tackle the threat that ash dieback poses to the forested river valleys of the Peak District. The project has received £3.6m in funding from the EU LIFE programme, with the remainder coming from project partners. Project partners include the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the National Trust and the Chatsworth Estate. The project is also working with the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire Dales District Council, the Arkwright Society, the Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust.

LIFE in the Ravines will help 900 hectares of forest survive this threat with a programme of tree planting and woodland management. Small and large-leaved lime and wych elm trees, historically present in the woods, will be planted to step into the spaces left behind when ash trees die. The project won’t give up on ash, it will seek out trees that might be resilient to the disease and give a helping hand to natural ash regeneration. Planting aspen, willow and other trees will build resilience and add to the diversity of wildlife in the woods. For more information on this incredible project please visit the Natural England website.

We work to improve the habitats for dormice in the Peak District
Dormouse
We work to improve the habitats for dormice in the Peak District

*Update*

As a nation, we are now witnessing the dramatic widespread affects of ash dieback, with many ash trees across the UK now showing signs of the fungal disease. Spring was one of the warmest and driest on record and placed a huge amount of stress on trees, which has left them more susceptible to disease. The national lockdown also meant teams of rangers that would ordinarily have carried out felling and maintenance work to ensure tree safety were unavailable.

National tree and woodland advisor Luke Barley said: “Ash dieback is a catastrophe for nature. Our landscapes and woodlands are irrevocably changing before our eyes, and this year’s combination of a dry spring and late frost may have dramatically sped up the spread and severity of ash dieback. There needs to be some recognition of this as a nationwide issue and an understanding of what is being lost. Lockdown has meant we weren’t able to undertake regular conservation work and many of our rangers who have returned are now forced to spend time tree felling to manage safety."

In response to the accelerated spread of the disease across many areas of the Peak District, large areas of frail ash trees that are located on or near to publicly accessible areas and pose a threat to public safety, will now require felling. Please keep checking our website and @peakdistrictNT social media to make yourself aware of any areas that may be affected by felling work taking place and follow any signs you might see to keep you and our staff safe.

Our response to tackling ash dieback across the Peak District in 2021

There may be areas where you see felling taking place from a distance, in these situations please follow all signage that you see in these areas to keep you, our staff and our volunteers safe and to ensure that the tree felling is not interrupted and therefore delays are avoided. Several road closures have been necessary so that our teams and contractors can remove infected trees safely and efficiently. In these instances we have worked hard to raise awareness of the closures and how local communities may be impacted but we also ask that all road users check the roads they plan to travel on and find alternative routes should their journey be impacted. Where felling is taking place, we strongly advise anyone to avoid these areas and plan alternative routes if travelling by car/bicycle or on foot. This helps ensure that the work can remain on schedule without interruptions and can be completed safely and efficiently for all involved.

View the latest National Trust press release on ash dieback here: Ash dieback press release National Trust (PDF / 0.1MB) download

Ash dieback is visible in Dovedale in the Peak District
Ash dieback is visible in Dovedale in the Peak District
Ash dieback is visible in Dovedale in the Peak District

How can you help our woodlands?

Our Peak District Appeal is one that is close to our hearts and the people that live in and visit the Peak District. In order to best prepare our woodlands to face the challenges of climate change and diseases like ash dieback, we rely on the support of the people that are passionate about visiting the Peak District to help us look after these special places. Your donation helps us to plant native tree saplings into the areas that have been affected by ash dieback.

Not only do our supporters help to conserve beautiful landscapes and protect precious plants and wildlife but they also ensure that future generations have places they can find freedom from everyday life, reconnect with the natural world and make memories to treasure. Your donation will help us to tackle ash dieback and carry out other vital conservation work in the great outdoors of the Peak District. With your support, we can continue to protect the irreplaceable, forever, for everyone.