Historic trees and woodland which provided inspiration for the likes of Beatrix Potter and John Constable face extinction due to a surge in ash dieback driven in part by the climate crisis, the National Trust has warned.
Spring was one of the warmest and driest on record and placed a huge amount of stress on trees, which has left them more susceptible to disease.
The national lockdown also meant teams of rangers that would ordinarily have carried out felling and maintenance work to ensure tree safety were unable to do the work.
This has created a “perfect storm”, and left rangers playing catch up in terms of tree felling, which is diverting resources from other much-needed conservation work.
Locations where felling will take place include the Lake District and South East; locations that provided inspiration for Beatrix Potter’s much-loved children’s books, as well as 18th to 19th century romantic artist John Constable.
The eventual loss of the native ash tree is also a “catastrophe for nature”, which will have a devastating impact on homes for wildlife and biodiversity, much of which will be displaced as a result.
One of the worst affected areas include the Cotswolds, with the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty facing the felling of more than 7,000 trees in the coming year.
Ash dieback is caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. It originated in Asia and spread due to the movement of plants as part of the global trade. The fungus spreads quickly as its spores are windborne.
It is expected that it will cost the charity - which needs to save around £100million each year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic - millions of pounds this year alone.
The trust is keen to thank members and visitors for their ongoing support, which is more important than ever, and today, makes an appeal to the public to replace lost woodland by donating to the Everyone Needs Nature campaign via the website.
It is also calling for the issue to be written into the government’s recently published England Tree Strategy, which sets out national commitments around tree planting and woodland creation.
National tree and woodland advisor Luke Barley said: “Ash dieback is a catastrophe for nature. Our landscapes and woodlands are irrevocably changing before our eyes, and this year’s combination of a dry spring and late frost may have dramatically sped up the spread and severity of ash dieback. Ash trees like those at Beatrix Potter’s Troutbeck Park Farm are some of our most culturally significant trees and have stood for hundreds of years but will now be lost forever.”