Trees are wonderful, especially at this time of year, but do we care for them enough? I see the government as acted, albeit belatedly, over the spread of the tree blight Chalara fraxinea by banning ash imports. But I fear much damage may already have been done. The EU’s failure to act when the disease was found on the continent means that the disease will have already spread naturally by wind.
Last week the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) urged the government to take all tree disease more seriously. CLA President Harry Cotterell said: “The revelation that Chalara is now in the wild is devastating. Ash is one of Britain’s iconic trees and our treasured landscape will look desolate without it.
“For far too long successive governments have failed to tackle the growing threat of tree diseases. Phytophthora ramorum has spread like wildfire up the west coast of Britain, from Cornwall to Scotland, killing hundreds of thousands of larch trees, and it is now moving eastward. Yet a mere £4million a year has been earmarked to fight it.
“Oak Processionary Moth strips oaks of all their leaves and is a health hazard to people. Yet it could have been stopped if government had made enough resources available to spray the moths at the caterpillar stage while it was still confined to a small area of London and before it spread to neighbouring counties.”
“Government must prioritise investment into managing these pest and disease and into research on how we can make our trees more resilient to attack by disease.”
On its website the Yorkshire Dales Society stated that if no action is taken (over halting the spread of the ash disease), in the medium term the common ash could be condemned. The implications for the survival of ash in the wider landscape suggest it could go the same way as the elm and all but disappear from the UK landscape.”
My photo shows trees outside the Dalesman office on Friday – how ordinary the scene would look with these magnificent living creatures.

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