Tackling ash dieback across the White Peak
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 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.
How will this affect 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.
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 team are currently 3 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 work, visitors will also see new views of the Peak District 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.
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. Where possible this work will be carried on Monday – Friday between the hours of 8am – 4:30pm but this may be subject to change.
Whilst this work may not directly impact your local exercise or essential travel, you may want to discover more around ash dieback and how this is affecting the countryside places that you visit.
These are the latest updates we have for the scheduled work. Please be aware that this information is subject to change:
White Peak area
- Ilam Park, Milldale, Lode Lane and the Pinch: work is estimated to start on the 18th January for 2 weeks
- Manifold Valley: work is estimated to start on the 22nd February for 1 week
- Millers Dale (road to Litton Mill): work is estimated to start on the 1st February for 3 weeks. The road will be closed to non-residents. The road closure will take place during working hours only Monday - Friday 8am – 4:30pm
High Peak area
- Edale (outlying areas): work is estimated to start on the 11th January until the end of February in a variety of locations
- Edale railway line: work is estimated to start on the 11th January and Network Rail will have staff onsite.
- Edale Road (Fullwood Homes area near Hope): work is estimated to start on the 11th January for 3-4 days
Longshaw Estate area
- *A625 Froggat Road (near Longshaw Estate): work is estimated to start on the 25th January for 16 days
- *B6521 Grindleford Road: work is estimated to start 22nd February for 5 days
- Around Wooden Pole area: work is estimated to start on the 19th January for 2-3 days
*At Froggatt road (A625) the closure will extend from the laybys at Froggatt Edge bend to the top of Moorlands Lane. Access to Moorlands Lane will not be restricted.
*On Grindleford Road (B6521) the road will be closed from the junction with Hathersage Road to Tedgness Road. Access to Tedgeness Road will not be restricted.
Applicable to both road closures: The road closure will take place during working hours only Monday - Friday 8am – 4:30pm.
View the latest National Trust press release on ash dieback here: Ash dieback press release National Trust (PDF / 0.1MB) download
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.
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.