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Ash dieback at Reigate Hill and Gatton Park

Two people cycling through a tree-lined avenue at Reigate Hill and Gatton Park in Surrey with sunlight flooding through the leaves onto the road
Cycling through a tree-lined avenue at Reigate Hill and Gatton Park in Surrey | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Ash dieback is spreading at Reigate Hill and Gatton Park. The invasive fungus is making some trees brittle, which could lead to them becoming unstable or shedding limbs. That’s why some of the ash trees will need to be removed from the estate.

What is happening?

'We realise that seeing machinery removing trees in well-loved landscapes is difficult for people,’ says Marc Russell, area ranger at Reigate Hill and Gatton Park. ‘As a team we find it hard too. The forestry operation to remove ash trees at Reigate is an unwelcome, but necessary job to instruct. We need to act to ensure people are safe.’

What's the scale of the problem?

Trees have been individually assessed, but along Back Lane and some sections of the North Downs Way and Pilgrim’s Way, the majority of the trees are ash and are infected. So while there shouldn’t be many large gaps in woodland, there will be areas where the loss of trees is more visible. In some cases, there will be diversions to walking routes. 

When will the works start and how long will they go on for?

The forestry operations will be taking place on and off over the next few years, until we’ve removed all trees that present a risk to the public.

What if birds usually nest in a tree you’re felling?

We hope to avoid the nesting season, but every tree is given 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 the tree.

Autumn walkers at Reigate Hill and Gatton Park, Surrey
Autumn walkers at Reigate Hill and Gatton Park, Surrey | © National Trust Images/John Miller

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 in each spot.

Will there be large machinery around?

Ash dieback can make trees brittle and unsafe for climbing so the tree surgery contractor will use specialist mechanical equipment to remove trees safely.

What will it look like afterwards?

Some areas will look wild and untidy for a while due to the amount of timber left on site – but it's more beneficial to wildlife to leave the wood than remove it all. Over the next few years, the timber will start to blend into the woodland and become less noticeable.

In other areas we are only removing individual trees, so the visual impact on the landscape will be minimal.

Are you planting any trees to replace those you cut down?

We’ll leave that to nature. Removing trees will open up the woodland canopy for natural regeneration. 

An image of the entrance way to Reigate Fort in Surrey with a sunken gravel passageway between grass banks and the red brick fort ahead


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A tree in summer with two main branches. One has bright green leaves and the other has no leaves whatsoever and is just bare branches.

Restoring woodlands affected by ash dieback 

Ash dieback is a fungal disease affecting the country’s native ash trees. As many as four out of five ash trees may be affected and, where the dying trees could cause a threat to human safety, we need to remove them.