2020: The Spring When Ash Dieback Devastated Unprepared Britain? Denial About Today’s ‘Dutch Elm Disease’
by Tony Gosling, Stroud, Gloucs. Both the BBC and the Daily Mail reported at the beginning of May that ash dieback disease was ‘being defeated’, ‘confined to only a few areas of the UK’. The headlines were ‘Some landscapes show resistance to Ash Dieback‘ and ‘Ash Dieback disease plaguing forests could be stopped by hedgerows and may NOT be as harmful‘ respectively.
Ash is one of the last trees to come into leaf in late April/early May and these articles were published as ash buds were opening. Only here in Gloucestershire many of them are not.
Round Cheltenham, Stow-on-the-Wold and Evesham roughly three-quarters of even the most mature ash trees, estimated age around 200 years old. have new growth on less than half their branches. In the ash woods, and in much Gloucestershire woodland ash predominates, you can see only sky which would normally be entirely blocked out by new green leaves. Many of the ash trees have no growth whatever, looking no different to their winter adornment. entirely grey and bare.
So is 2020 the year it became clear that rather than having been beaten by science, ash dieback could be every bit as bad as the dutch elm disease that wiped out Britain’s elm trees in the early 1970s, apart from a few thousand on the south downs and one the queen was looking after in Edinburgh.