South Lincolnshire is bracing itself for the impact of Ashtree Dieback disease, which threatens to decimate Bourne Wood and has already caused local garden centres to withdraw their stocks of ash saplings from sale.
Secretary of the Friends of Bourne Wood, Sarah Roberts, said: “We are very concerned because the wood has a great many ash trees in it.
“No trees have been planted there for 25 years as the Forestry Commission has a policy of allowing renewal by self-seeding, and ash is very good at self-seeding.
“It’s also a good cash crop for the Commission because it grows quickly and the wood is in demand.
“If the disease is found in the wood, it’ll be a major loss as it will affect such a large proportion of our trees.”
The Forestry Commission is working flat out to survey every one of its woodlands nationwide before the trees lose all their leaves, making symptoms of the disease much harder to identify.
People are advised to find out what symptoms look like on its website www.forestry.gov.uk before reporting cases of the notifiable disease to the National Helpline on the number found there.
Baytree Nurseries Garden Centre at Weston has withdrawn its 300-plus ash saplings and young trees from sale.
Its tree expert Tim Wayman said: “Hopefully other local nurseries have done the same.
“The nearest nursery growing ash trees in numbers is Crowders at Horncastle, which has made the national news after being forced to destroy its entire crop of 50,000.
“Unlike Dutch Elm disease, which affected mature trees more seriously, Chalera will kill a young tree in a year and could exist in a mature tree for up to 15 years.”