DEFENSIVE measures have been put in place at one of the Cotswold’s top visitor attractions to stop the spread of a deadly tree disease.
Staff at Batsford Arboretum, near Moreton, were putting a contingency plan in place, said operations director Stuart Priest, Ash dieback disease, first discovered in East Anglia last month after ravaging woodlands on the Continent, has been confirmed at about 30 sites around the country.
Landowners are now being ordered to destroy tens of thousands of trees infected with the disease, which is caused by a fungus called chalara fraxinea.
Mr Priest said: “We are not as a policy buying in any ash trees. At the garden centre we are not purchasing any native or ornamental trees. I just don’t want it round here – it would be devastating.
There are a lot of ash trees in Gloucestershire, and it’s a very important tree for the wildlife.
“There are lots of birds that eat the ash seeds so to have it here would be awful.
“We have had these things in the past. You don’t know if it’s something to panic about or if it will fizzle out.
“If it was to take hold we can only hope that somewhere along the line they will build resilience up and they will come back again.”
Dr Colin Studholme, director of policy and research at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, said: “There’s not much people can do at the moment because the leaves are falling off the trees.
“However, people need to be vigilant when the new leaves appear as it’ll be easier to see the signs of the infection. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust will be asking its supporters and the public to report sightings next spring.”
Meanwhile, Cotswold residents are being asked to be on the lookout for symptoms of the tree disease, which causes leaf death and severe crown dieback, and can kill the infected tree.
To report a sighting call 08459 335577 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org v.uk.
There is also information via forestry.gov.uk/chalara.