Ash Dieback in Kent spreading much faster than expected
27th September 2014
It’s been almost two years since the Ash Dieback story first made the national press and at the time, I wrote this blog post “Ash Dieback in Kent (Chalara Fraxinea)” in which I tried helpfully to separate the media hype from the science behind our then understanding of the disease. I also made a prediction on the long term implications for our Ash trees should the worst fears be realised which I now believe may be happening.
The following summer, a nationwide survey revealed the full extent of the disease and confirmed Kent as one of the countries hotbeds with 52 confirmed cases by October 2013. In that period however, as a professional arborist spending the better part of my working week looking at trees in and around Kent, I only came across a handful of cases. Until recently, if i’m honest I had started to wonder if Ash Dieback had been somewhat overdone and might simply end up as just another name on the long list of serious but manageable pathogens already affecting our trees.
Over the past few months however, the speed of what I have seen develop here in Kent has astonished me. I first started spotting the disease on roadside trees whilst driving about between quoting appointments and once I started looking for it, it became more and more obvious. It is on almost every main road I regularly use and on some stretches I would say upwards of 50% of all Ash trees are infected to varying degrees. I have watched previously healthy trees become infected and others deteriorate rapidly to almost no foliage in just a matter of weeks. Perhaps more concerning is that larger and older trees appear to be faring just as badly, if not worse than their younger neighbours, contrary to our current understanding of the disease.
It’s not just roadside trees but in gardens and town centres too and this week alone I have spotted multiple, severe cases of Chalara Ash Dieback in Sevenoaks, Bromley, Orpington, Tonbridge and Maidstone. To give you an idea of the extent in some places, over the weekend I walked a 3 mile stretch of the A20 near where I live and counted 38 infected trees or groups of trees, which is already over 60% of the total number of Ash present!
With the level of geopolitical turmoil around the world this year it is unsurprising Chalara Fraxinea has seemingly dropped off both the government and media radars but if what I have anecdotally observed here in Kent reflects the wider UK picture, expect it to come to the fore again at some point next year as its full impact on our environment, like Dutch Elm Disease before it may not only be greater but far more swiftly felt than many currently expect.
**There is obvious concern among home owners and those responsible for managing land with Ash trees about safety implications and their lawful duty of care, further advice on which can be found here and here. In essence, official advice simply remains to report suspected cases and practically manage the structural safety of individual trees by engaging professionals to prune or remove them as necessary. For free advice or help with any of this, feel free to contact us here
Below are images of some of the 38 infected trees or groups of trees I counted at the weekend in a single 3 mile stretch of the A20 near where I live!