Ash killer disease strikes Lawshall wood planted by local volunteers

Greenlight Trust wood hit by ash dieback disease.''Chief exec. Mark Pritchard.
Greenlight Trust wood hit by ash dieback disease.''Chief exec. Mark Pritchard.
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Ash die back disease has been confirmed in recently created community woodland at Lawshall.

The Green Light Trust’s Golden Wood behind its Lawshall headquarters, has been hit by the fungal disease which was first thought to have been brought in on imported ash saplings.

But the trust’s chief executive Mark Pritchard said on Wednesday: “All our trees are grown from locally sourced seed. The suspicion is that this was windborne.”

The disease is also thought to be infecting coppiced ash at the trust’s newly acquired Frithy Wood south of Lawshall.

Though ash makes up about 40 per cent of our deciduous woodland, at Golden Wood ist is about half the trees, which have been planted by local volunteers over about 15 years.

Mr Pritchard said: “I took a briefing for local friends of the forest and they were sad about it but what struck me was their determination that they would see a way through it, perhaps planting other species.”

The Government has banned ash imports and movement of material from infected areas. The trust has put up signs asking people not to take plant material out of the woods and to disinfect footwear and cycle tyres before visiting other woods, gardens and nurseries.

Mr Pritchard said they are waiting to see what the Forestry Commission decides tree owners must do next. He urged people to report suspected cases to the commission, perhaps using the UEA app (see right), so it can build a full picture of infection.

The fungus, chalara fraxinea, hits new growth hardest, particularly young trees or new growth on coppiced trees. Older trees are thought to take some years to succumb to it. The affected trees’ leaves wilt quickly, as if sprayed with weed killer, and turn dark brown without first going yellow as healthy ash does before turning golden.

The fungus gets into the wood of a twig and spreads into the branch or trunk creating a distinctive diamond shaped canker at that point, where the bark eventually cracks.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s West Suffolk sites manger Will Cranstoun warned there are other things that make ash die back, so people should not cut down trees without seeking advice. “Let the Forestry Commission know and they’ll take samples,” he said. “We’re going to lose a lot of trees. We’ve got trees that are 600 years old and they have great wildlife value.

A suspected case has is at a SWT reserve at Bures. The country’s first wild cases were confirmed last week near Wymondham and Framlingham.

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The University of East Anglia warns that 60 species of rare insect depend on the ash so it is vital we all help fight the disease.

So it has created an iPhone and Android smart phone app to make reporting trees easy even for amateur foresters.

If you think you have spotted a sick ash you photograph it and it sends your picture to plant pathologists with a GPS position.

To download it, visit