Fungal disease 'a growing concern' for West Sussex woodland, charity warns

An ash tree with the disease. Getty images
An ash tree with the disease. Getty images

West Sussex is at risk at losing 95 per cent of its ash trees due to a dangerous fungal infection, but a charity is helping to tackle the disease.

The fungal disease, known as ash dieback, has the potential to kill 95 per cent of West Sussex ash trees over the next ten to 20 years, according to West Sussex County Council.

“Ash dieback is a growing concern across the country including here in West Sussex, we want to help stop it from spreading within our beautiful landscape,” said Peter Stanley, general manager at the Aldingbourne Country Centre.

The spores are generally released between June and September, and the disease can spread locally by wind dispersal in an area over ten miles.

The symptoms are often easier to spot in mid-late summer, when a healthy ash should be in full leaf, the charity said.

It becomes much harder to identify in autumn, when leaves are naturally changing colour and falling.

With the threat of the disease, the Aldingbourne Country Centre near Chichester decided to survey their grounds during the summer to help monitor and reduce the environmental impact this disease is taking locally.

The recent survey highlighted several trees in the Country Centre Woodland Walk to be infected, and as a matter of precaution the woodland was closed whilst the maintenance work could be carried out on the infected trees.

As a result of these findings, the Country Centre will continue to assess the health of their ash trees and plan their response to reduce the spread of this disease. The woodland walk is now fully open for all to enjoy.

Once the trees are cut down, you need to manage their disposal effectively so that the disease is not accidentally spread by transporting the waste wood.

Forest Research suggests Movement of logs or unsawn wood from infected trees might also be a pathway for the disease, although this is considered to be a low risk”.

As the Country Centre has biomass boilers on site which are currently run on the waste wood they collect as part of their Community Wood Recycling Scheme, they have decided to burn all the trees onsite.

Peter added: “This will remove the transportation risk of spreading the disease, but also give the trees a purpose by creating energy to heat our Country Centre throughout the winter.”

Visit the Trust’s website to find out more about their involvement in local community projects and to for more information about their award winning charity that supports adults with learning disabilities and/or autism to live independent lives www.aldingbournetrust.org.