Tackling ash dieback in Dovedale

Dovedale valley in the Peak District

The steep sided dales of the White Peak are host to some of the most atmospheric and important woods in the country, known as ‘ravine woodland’. Some of these woodlands have been here since the last ice age but ash dieback continues to impact the health of the woodland in Dovedale. 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 White Peak?

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.

How will this affect Dovedale?

The woods in Dovedale 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 the riverside path.”

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 in the White Peak 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.

*Please note - In order to carry out this work with the optimum consideration for our team’s safety and the safety of others visiting Dovedale, it is extremely likely that we will need to close the path between Lovers Leap and Ilam Rock Bridge for the month of October 2019. This will allow our rangers to carry out the work quickly and efficiently and in the safest way possible.*

There will be an alternative route for walkers who wish to walk from the Stepping Stones to Milldale. Visitors are advised that this route is more challenging and takes an hour longer then the riverside path. This route will be waymarked and has beautiful bird’s eye views of the Dovedale Valley.

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

Our ranger team are currently 2 years in to their 5 year Woodland Conservation Project that has the aims to help our woodlands to be better equipped to face climate change and diseases like ash dieback. With our woodlands 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. Through this project visitors will also see new views of Dovedale 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.

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.

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

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. We are very fortunate to have access to such beautiful and dynamic landscapes like the Peak District and in 2019 we have taken a closer look into the people that fought for that access with the People’s Landscapes Project. We are humbled by the great efforts and sacrifices that people undertook, so that they could enjoy fresh air and walk freely through the countryside, we must now honor their past efforts by remembering that we are all responsible in looking after the places that we love. 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.

As a charity, we rely on the generosity of supporters to look after the outdoor spaces in our care. 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 go towards projects like tackling ash dieback and 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.