Letchworth resident’s ash tree killer disease fears

A DISEASE which threatens the existence of ash trees may have spread to Comet country.

The ash dieback fungus is killing ash trees across Europe, with the highest number of confirmed UK cases in the East Anglia region.

Letchworth GC resident Mark Jaggard completed an assessment for the Forestry Commission last week after noticing an ash tree in his back garden was showing signs of the disease, also known as chalara fraxinea.

Mr Jaggard is yet to hear back from the government department responsible for the protection of Britain’s forests and woodlands but fears if his diagnosis is correct ash trees in nearby Norton Common could also be affected.

The tree was already in Mr Jaggard’s garden when he moved to Hawthorn Hill six years ago and could be between 30 to 40 years old.

He said: “I was looking out the window into my back garden and noticed it so went out to have a closer look. I noticed the tree looked like it has black frost damage and several outer branches are dead or dying, different to the usual autumn drop.

“If it does have the disease it could have spread to Norton Common nature reserve.”

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The first UK case of ash dieback was confirmed in ash plants in a nursery in Buckinghamshire in March 2012, after being imported from The Netherlands.

Experts believe the disease is spread through the air by the wind and through movement of diseased plants, with ash tree imports now banned by the Government.

Its onset is quicker in young ash trees, which are being chopped down in confirmed cases, while older trees, which tend to resist the disease for longer, are currently not being culled.