Ash Tree Dieback

Ash trees across the UK are dying – and fast…

Trees are a key visual feature in any rural landscape, including the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Currently though, we are set to lose one type almost entirely – the ash tree. A destructive fungal disease – ash dieback – has been spreading since 2012, and it will kill most of the ash trees in the UK, including those in the Cotswolds. This is no small thing – ash trees are the third most common tree in the country. “Ash dieback became evident in the Cotswolds last summer”, explains Mark Conelly, Land Management Officer at the Conservation Board, “and there is no cure, so we are very likely to lose over 90% of ash trees in woodland, and around 70% of those outside woods, including big veteran trees and ancient pollards.”

Ash is a dominant tree in the Cotswold landscape, and in some places it can provide the majority of tree cover. And it is not only an important woodland tree, it is also significant in the wider landscape and can be found lining the roadside, in fields, in hedges, and in parks and gardens. “Ash trees also provide habitat and food for 111 species of insect and mites, and 29 of those are specific to ash. Bats use ash trees for foraging and hibernation, and rows of trees provide flight lines across the landscape connecting roost and foraging areas. Mature ash trees with holes and hollows provide roost sites for birds, and homes for small mammals. With all this mind, it’s no exaggeration to say that the loss of ash trees will have a truly devastating impact on the landscape and wildlife of the Cotswolds and surrounding areas”, Mark says.

To try and tackle the impact of the problem, a partnership of organisations and experts from across the Cotswolds, Gloucester, Cheltenham and the Vale of Gloucester have joined forces. Their aim is to offer help for ash dieback in areas outside woodland (as owners and managers of woodlands are already being supported and guided by the Forestry Commission). The partnership’s aim is to work with farmers, land managers, and communities, and plant new trees to succeed the ash and provide an effective response to their disappearance.

It will be crucial to maximise the benefits new trees will provide for wildlife, the landscape, and people – so these considerations will guide where trees will be planted. Replacement tree species to be planted include oak, beech, lime, field maple, and hazel – as Mark explains, “these all reflect the character of the area, provide the best benefits, and give us the best hope for the future of the landscape.”

How you can help

Fund a tree!
The partnership cannot do this work on its own – they need your help with funding, tree planting, and guidance on planting sites. The partnership is starting to raise funds so it can start planting trees this coming winter. You can help enormously by making a donation to the Ash Fund. Any amount will help. Donating £20 would pay for a tree, and plant and protect it; ensuring it will survive and grow in the landscape of the Cotswolds, Vale of Gloucester, or in and around Stroud, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury.

Donate to the Cotswolds Conservation Board

Donate here, or contact mark.connelly@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk

Sponsor the project
The partnership would love to hear from companies and organisations that would like to sponsor the tree planting programme. For more info, email mark.connelly@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk

You can help us remember!
Mark and the partnership want to create a visual memory bank of prominent and notable ash trees in the landscape, before they are lost, by taking photographic portraits of them. Photographs will also help identify where to plant new trees. They need photographs of ash trees that are significant in the landscape (and which show the trees in the context of their landscape setting). This includes single ash trees, or trees in rows or groups, those found in hedgerows, alongside roads or footpaths, in fields, parkland. Send your photographs (up to 10mb) to ashtreephotos@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk, and remember to say where they are, ideally with a grid reference and short description.