Ash dieback confirmed at Sandridge’s Heartwood Forest

THE deadly ash dieback disease – which has led to the destruction of more than 100,000 trees in the UK – was found in Heartwood Forest saplings, the Woodland Trust has revealed.

The seven trees were planted as landscaping for a new car park at the Sandridge forest, and purchased from a nursery confirmed to have the chalara disease.

After the Forestry Commission warned the trees may be infected at the end of August, the trust destroyed them as a precaution in September. They were confirmed as infected shortly afterwards following tests.

The Woodland Trust said it is confident there is a low risk the disease infected the rest of the forest.

Chalara spreads through the release of spores, but apparently the trees would not have been able to produce these due to the small amount of time they were on site.

Chalara has already devastated woodland across Europe with 90 per cent of ash trees in Denmark and 80 per cent of ash stands in Poland affected.

The disease causes lesions in tree shoots, with many infected leaves appearing blemished. It also causes crown dieback and can lead to the death of a tree.

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The first case in Britain was confirmed earlier in the year at a nursery in Buckinghamshire from a Dutch import.

Thousands of trees in the UK have now been destroyed to halt the spread of the disease, which has no known cure.

Louise Neicho, Woodland Trust site manager, said: “As soon as it was made aware to us that there was a possibility of infection on site we acted to destroy the suspected trees immediately.

“Since then we have regularly been inspecting the site for further signs of the disease and to date none of these inspections has indicated that there are any further ash trees showing signs of the disease.

“As it stands the site is open to the public and we have implemented standard biosecurity measures for staff and contractors.

“We would have been planting around six or seven thousand ash trees on site this planting season, which we are now replacing with alternative species as a simple precautionary measure and in line with Forestry Commission advice.”

The forest’s season of tree planning will go ahead as normal with the first Community Planting Day taking place on Sunday, November 18.