Rangers check for ash tree disease

Ben Simpson checking leaves on the Ash trees in Ashton Gardens, St Annes.
Ben Simpson checking leaves on the Ash trees in Ashton Gardens, St Annes.
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TREE experts were today ensuring the Fylde coast’s trees have not been hit with a deadly disease.

Ash tree disease has spread across parts of England and Scotland, damaging young trees and posing a threat to older ones.

Tree teams are now at work in parks and woods across Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde to check for signs of the air and water borne disease.

David Heath, the environment minister, has said 100,000 trees have already been destroyed to stop the spread of the disease and a ban on imports has been put in place.

It is affecting mainly areas in South East England, and also Glasgow, Leicester and Leeds, but checks are underway across the Fylde coast too.

Phil Morton, a tree expert at Blackpool Council, said: “I’m going out and seeing if there are any signs of it and collecting samples to send to the Forestry Commission.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Ash tree disease, Chalara fraxinea, causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to tree death.

Mr Morton explained that while the Forestry Commission and government had issued details about symptoms to look out for, there are other things which can be mistaken for the disease.

Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde Councils are all sending tree teams out to inspect woodland areas, parks and trees in some privately owned areas.

A spokesman for Wyre Council said: “Our Tree Officer and Countryside Rangers will shortly begin a programme of inspections on the woodland sites where ash trees have been planted in the last five years.

“Any suspected cases will be reported immediately to the Forestry Commission.

“Ash trees on order for this year’s planting have been cancelled and substituted with oak.”

Ben Simpson, an arboriculturist, or tree expert, is part of Fylde Council’s team checking trees.

The team carry out regular inspections and have shown gardeners in council gardens how to check for symptoms too.

A spokesman for Fylde Council said: “Our teams are alert to this threat. Ash trees do feature in a number of our parks but we’re not expecting any trouble.”

Mr Morton added: “The potential if it did spread is horrific really, but we’re nowhere near that stage at the moment.”

The disease can kill off young trees quickly, and would take two to three years to kill an older tree.

To find out more or to report suspected symptoms, contact the Forestry Commission’s on 0117 372 1070.

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