National Trust defends felling of 100-year-old trees in historic woods

Aidan Collins at Bullfer Grove, where the National Trust has felled ash trees. 

Aidan Collins at Bullfer Grove, where the National Trust has felled ash trees. - Credit: Stuart Anderson

The National Trust is in the firing line for felling 50 ash trees in a historic woodland in north Norfolk.

But the trust, which owns the Bullfer Grove site near Thursford, said the 100-year-old trees had to be cut down because of ash dieback, a disease which is expected to wipe out most of the UK's ash trees over the next three decades. 

Aidan Collins, from East Rudham, who has been visiting the woods for years, said that while some of the ash trees showed signs of dieback, others seemed perfectly healthy.

He said: "It seems like it would be okay if there was a dangerous tree near a path, but they have cut down every single ash tree there. The woods are a tragic sight now, it’s truly heart-breaking."

Aidan Collins at Bullfer Grove, where the National Trust has felled ash trees. 

Aidan Collins at Bullfer Grove, where the National Trust has felled ash trees. - Credit: Stuart Anderson

But a trust spokesperson said that as well as ash dieback, the trees had been damaged in a storm in autumn last year.

The spokesman said: "We only fell or remove trees of this type that pose a direct risk to public health and safety. Those that don’t we leave to decay and decompose to act as natural homes for wildlife.

"The team has also been thinning a number of beech trees to allow light into the understory, promoting the floral diversity that already exists there, such as bluebells. The bluebells and other ground flora will recover and in the long term be much more vigorous leading to a more diverse and beautiful wood."

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The spokesman said some of the wood would be sold but "a lot of it" would be left as deadwood, to provide nutrients and shelter for woodland species.

Felled ash trees stacked up at Bullfer Grove woods in north Norfolk.

Felled ash trees stacked up at Bullfer Grove woods in north Norfolk. - Credit: Stuart Anderson

But Mr Collins said it would have been better for the environment if all of the ash had been left there to rot on the ground. 

He said: "There will be no ash left to monitor progression in resistance to ash dieback. Why take timber away if it's disease management?"

Mr Collins said he he also objected to the use of large machines to cut down the trees, as they had caused some extra damage, and described the felling as "insensitive management" because of the size and type of woodland.

The woodland is open to the public.

Felled ash trees stacked up at Bullfer Grove woods in north Norfolk.

Felled ash trees stacked up at Bullfer Grove woods in north Norfolk. - Credit: Stuart Anderson

Ash dieback: What is it?

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. 

The Trust said between 75pc and 95pc of all ash trees will be lost in the next 20-30 years – around 2.5 million trees on National Trust land alone.

They said the felling at Bullfer Grove had been carried out now to avoid the worst of the wet ground conditions, and to get in before bird nesting season.

Defra has committed to ongoing research into finding a suitable alternative and attempts at producing ash trees that are resistant to the disease.

The entrance to Bullfer Grove in north Norfolk.

The entrance to Bullfer Grove in north Norfolk. - Credit: Stuart Anderson


Aidan Collins at Bullfer Grove, where the National Trust has felled ash trees. 

Aidan Collins at Bullfer Grove, where the National Trust has felled ash trees. - Credit: Stuart Anderson


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