Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Battle on to save Kent’s ash trees

A healthy ash tree in Elham
A healthy ash tree in Elham

The fightback has begun against ash dieback disease, and Kent is playing a key role.

The Forestry Commission has planted up to 10,000 ash trees on two acres of land at the Hucking Estate near Hollingbourne, in an attempt to identify disease-resistant varieties of the species. Just 100 trees are predicted to survive.

Forestry Commission head of tree breeding, Steve Lee, said: “Ninety-nine per cent of the trees are expected to die.

“But that 1% could be the difference between having no ash trees and having some that are resistant to the disease.”

The commission has planted 250,000 saplings across 16 areas in England as part of the project to combat ash dieback, which first emerged in Britain last year.

Four sites have been established in Kent - in Maidstone, Faversham, Swale and Tunbridge Wells.

The commission has picked areas known to have been infected by ash dieback, also known as Chalara, to conduct the experiment.

Cases have been reported at the Hucking Estate. The full extent of the problem is not yet known, but ­— with ash comprising 25 per cent of the ancient woodland — site manager Clive Steward is bracing himself for the worst.

Steve Lee of the Forestry Commission
Steve Lee of the Forestry Commission

“We’re very worried about it, but know there’s nothing we can do,” he said.

The newly-planted sites will be monitored over the next five years to see which varieties of ash survive.

Mr Lee added: “What we need to do is subject large numbers of trees to the disease and let nature sort out those which seem to be more resistant.”

The 2,500 trees that are expected to survive across the 16 sites will be used to develop new seed beds. Cuttings will be taken, and some of the trees will be brought together to cross pollinate.

In time, areas of the country that have been hit by the disease will be replanted with the resistant varieties.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More