Trust pilots strategy to keep full-size trees in the countryside

The Woodland Trust has launched a new initiative encouraging landowners to plant trees away from woodlands in areas badly affected by tree disease, to maintain what it calls the "connectivity of the landscape".

Image: David Wright
Image: David Wright

Studies by the trust suggest the impact of ash dieback on the UK's 12 million trees outside of woods could prove disastrous both for wildlife and cherished landscapes.

Based on its own mapping of 280 million trees across England and Wales, it has compared different scenarios of ash tree loss within woodlands and in the wider countryside, and found that even minimal tree loss from hedgerows and field margins would have "a huge impact" on familiar landscapes.

The trust is now providing 1,000 subsidised "disease recovery packs" of trees specifically to be planted in hedgerows, verges, along field edges and watersides in the wider landscape, as a pilot in five English counties badly affected by ash dieback: Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent, East Sussex and Northumberland.

The packs contain 45 trees from a mix of five native species and come with tailored advice on planting, which will differ according to the type and condition of the landscape. They are also being made available to schools and community groups.

Woodland Trust director of conservation Austin Brady said: "We want to ensure hedgerows remain connected and individual trees outside of woods remain in the landscape, which is why we need to work in collaboration with landowners across the UK."

The packs form part of a £4.5m investment in native tree stock by the charity, which ensures the trees it provides are grown in the UK from fully traceable seed stock sourced in the British Isles. It also offers support for landowners wishing to plant on a larger scale through its MOREwoods scheme.

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