A benefit of the removal of these trees for road safety reasons is that the remaining oaks, small-leaved limes and wild service trees will get more sunlight and nutrients, allowing them to become veteran trees of the future.
David Molloy, the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust officer responsible for managing the nature reserve, explained “Ash dieback arrived in Worcestershire a few years ago and is now prevalent amongst our woodlands. We take it seriously and are looking at our own sites on a case-by-case basis – we don’t intend to routinely fell our woodland ash trees because we’re hoping to identify ones that are resistant to the disease.
“However, where they are a potential hazard – particularly to drivers along busy roads like the one from Pershore to Upton – we have to take action. Even with regular safety inspections, ash dieback can cause large trees to unexpectedly lose limbs or to fall over.
“The felling might look severe when it first happens as some of the understorey will need to be removed in order for the contractors to access the trees. However, the extra light and space that will be created by this work will be really beneficial for the trees that are left standing.
“As the section re-vegetates, there will be a diverse area of scrub habitat – including species like hazel, field maple and hawthorn - that will provide more nesting and feeding opportunities for wildlife.”
Ash dieback is widespread throughout both the UK and Worcestershire. The impact on the county’s woodlands is likely to be substantial but the Trust and other landowners are hoping to find disease-resistant trees that will form the basis for future regeneration.
As part of the regular management of their woodland nature reserves for wildlife, the Trust usually undertakes forestry operations each winter. This involves removing some timber, usually by coppicing trees to just above ground level where they can regrow, in order to let light into the woodland floor. Staff are currently targeting diseased ash for removal as part of this work.
David continued “We understand that visitors and drivers may have concerns when they see this section of a familiar landscape change quite quickly but we want to reassure people that we won’t be removing every tree.
“Our priority is the safety of road-users but we’re also relieved that, whilst we’re sadly seeing the loss of some of our ash trees, part of the by-product is the benefit to the trees that are left behind.”