Ash dieback disease hits Wey & Arun Canal

Published: Wednesday, 15 September 2021

AS MANY readers will be aware, native ash trees in Britain have been devastated by ash dieback disease, and those growing along the canal are no exception.

It is forecast that the disease, caused by a fungus imported from Asia, will kill about 80% of ash trees across the UK, and both young and mature trees are affected.

Pose a risk to the public

Dying and dead trees can pose a risk to the public and canal users as their branches become brittle and trunks pappy, making them unstable, so the Wey & Arun Canal Trust brought in an arboricultural expert to survey the Loxwood stretch to identify those trees suffering from ash dieback and create a plan for their safe removal.

Independent arboricultural consultant Mark Welby inspected the canal from Barnsill Bridge to Gennets Bridge and has provided the trust with a comprehensive guide to the condition of trees in that area.

Identified for removal

As a result all ash trees that appear to be in decline as a result of ash dieback have been identified for removal over a three-year period. Those that appear to be healthy will be left in the hope some may have a degree of resistance as a small percentage of ash trees will be tolerant to the disease.

A tree felling licence has been obtained from the Forestry Commission and over the coming winter months trust volunteers and contractors will be out along the towpath. It is aimed to keep disruption to a minimum, but please bear with the trust while it carries out these necessary works.

Earlier this year more than 100 native saplings were planted along the canal thanks to a donation from the Woodland Trust.

Ash dieback symptoms:

Leaves develop dark patches in the summer.
They then wilt and discolour to black. Leaves might shed early.
Dieback of the shoots and leaves is visible in the summer.