Controlling ash dieback at Polesden Lacey

A woman walks through woods

Ash dieback disease is now present in most areas of England and Wales. At Polesden Lacey we care for our 1400 acre estate including ancient woodland, historic farmsteads, and rolling downland. Unfortunately, alongside other National Trust properties in the Surrey Hills, Polesden Lacey is also dealing with this plant health issue.

Ash dieback is fatal to most trees and infected trees are prone to failing at the base or to dropping limbs from the crown. Being an airborne disease, we can’t prevent its spread or treat affected trees. Therefore, we need to take appropriate action to protect visitors and the wider public using access routes near our sites. This will involve felling trees across the region. During the period, some footpaths and roads may be closed to ensure public safety and that of our staff and contractors.

Ash dieback and the subsequent loss of trees will have a significant impact on wooded habitats, important landscapes, and heritage assets. We hope that other tree species will take advantage of the light created by the felled trees and repopulate these areas. Where possible, we will adapt our management to protect and conserve the wildlife and landscape qualities provided by ash trees. We do this by considering the wider landscape, its biodiversity, and the needs of particular habitats and species.

What is ash dieback?

Ash dieback (sometimes called Chalara or Chalara dieback) is a disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. The fungus was previously called Chalara fraxinea. It causes leaf loss, crown dieback, and bark lesions in affected trees. Once a tree is infected the disease is usually fatal, either directly, or indirectly by weakening the tree to the point where it succumbs more readily to attacks by other pests or pathogens.

Do you need to work on all the ash trees?

We only carry out safety work on trees that are in severe decline and will leave ash standing where appropriate to find out which specimens display tolerance to the disease – these trees will then be able to reproduce.

When and where will the tree felling be taking place?

Tree felling will take place over the next few years, but work will take place in the autumn and winter months as this has the lowest impact on local wildlife. Every tree has a wildlife impact assessment before any work is started. If a bird is building a nest, the felling will be put on hold unless there is an urgent need to remove it.

This winter we are carrying out works across footpaths, bridleways, and byways across the estate. From 22 Nov, in conjunction with Surrey Country Council, Hogden Lane will be closed to all users for a minimum of 21 days so that trees can be safely dismantled and removed. Footpaths crossing the byway will remain open for pedestrians.

Will the works interfere with my visit?

It may be necessary to temporarily divert footpaths or close off small areas where works are taking place. This should be for no more than a couple of days.

Our tree surgery contractor will use specialist mechanical equipment to remove trees safely and there may be some noise.

Tree felling will inevitably have a significant impact on our wooded habitats, important landscapes, and heritage assets. However, we tidy up as much as possible, removing timber that can be sold, but some will also be left to create wildlife habitats. Over the next few years, this will start to blend into the woodland and will not be so noticeable.

Are you planting any trees to compensate for the ones you’re felling?

No, the trees that have been removed will open up the canopy in the woodland for natural regeneration of new tree species.

Nationally, the trust is running a Plant a Tree campaign where you can plant a tree for yourself or as a gift to someone special or in memory of a loved one. This is not in response to the tree felling but part of our aim of planting and establishing 20 million trees by 2030. Just £5 will plant one new sapling.