Ash dieback in Cressbrook Dale

Ash dieback and why managing it is so critical to the future of Cressbrook Dale and to the village.

What is ash dieback?

Ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) is a fungus which originated in Asia. It doesn’t cause much damage on its native hosts of the Manchurian ash (Fraxinus mandshurica) and the Chinese ash (Fraxinus chinensis) in its native range. However, its introduction to Europe about 30 years ago has devastated the European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) because our native ash species did not evolve with the fungus and this means it has no natural defence against it.

It’s thought that we are going to lose around 80% of our ash trees in the UK. This is going to have a devastating impact on the landscape and the biodiversity of our woodlands, as well as a major loss in connections between habitats as we lose hedges and individual trees outside of woods.

The cost

The predicted cost of managing the diseases is high. It includes the practical expense of clearing up dead and dying trees, to the loss of its environmental services such as air purification.

The solution

As well as aiming to retain as many potentially tolerant ash trees as possible, letting nature take its course by allowing diseased ash trees to decline, we also improve the resilience of our woods to future diseases and climate change. We do this by increasing the genetic diversity of trees in existing woods. And when planting new woods, we use a mix of native tree species. 

(Extracts from The Woodland Trust document on ash dieback)

How does this affect Cressbrook Dale?

A large proportion of the trees in Cressbrook Dale are ash and many of them are showing signs of ash dieback. On the eastern side of the valley, owned by the Chatsworth Estate and managed by Natural England, amongst other strategies, lime trees have been planted to help restore the canopy and maintain diversity. But on the western side, that owned by Phoenix Rose, nothing is being done. The woods are being referred to as a resource to potential investors, not as an expensive and time consuming responsibility and liability.

Our concerns

1)The whole integrity of the biodiversity of this ash woodland is threatened by this disease and it needs investment of a lot of time and money, as with the woods on the other side of the valley, to save it for future generations.

Tree blocks road to Ravensdale on 23 October 2022

2) Ash dieback directly affects access to our community as our local roads and several footpaths have dying ash trees on either side of them. This picture illustrates a worryingly frequent event now that ash dieback has taken hold in the Dale. Derbyshire County Council, at taxpayers expense, cleared the road but the liability for any costs incurred in removing the tree and for reparation should any damage result is recovered by the council from the owners of the land on which the tree is growing. If it is not possible to recover these costs from the landowner then council tax payers bear the cost for the negligence of landowners.

Of course a greater concern is that people could be injured or worse by falling trees. For the landowners the third party liability for the trees growing adjacent to publicly accessible areas in the dale and in the village itself is considerable. It needs investment of a lot of time and money to ensure that the badly diseased trees are identified and removed - preferably before they fall.

What we would like to see happen:

We would like these precious woodlands to be managed properly by experts. We see this as the only way for the Dale to thrive as a wildlife habitat and for it to fulfill its role as a wildlife corridor as outlined in the Wye Valley Recovery Project. Also it would ensure dying trees are identified and removed from the sides of highways and footpaths in a timely fashion.