ASIDE from the obvious pandemic affecting everyone’s lives, there is another infection changing Rotherham’s landscape...
Thousands of trees are expected to be lost across the borough due to a progressive disease called ash dieback.
Once infected, the tree begins to die and within a short timescale it will be unable to support its own weight and become dangerous.
Rotherham Council has inspected about 1,000 ash trees on its land so far, with 82 of those needing to be removed already.
This includes 15 in Clifton Park, some of which were close to children’s play equipment and areas where the visitors are known to gather.
But figures from elsewhere show that between 75 and 90 per cent of ash trees will be killed by ash dieback.
Leading the RMBC’s efforts is green spaces manager Andy Lee (right), who said: “Some trees do have a natural defence, some will be able to fight the infection but you don’t know which.
“The only reason the council is taking these trees out is because we have identified that they are infected and will become unsafe over the next season or two. It has to be done for public safety.”
Ash dieback began in Asia before being reported in Poland in the 90s as it crossed Europe — arriving in the south-east of England eight years ago.
“It was either blown in on the wind or came in on saplings,” said Mr Lee. “That was 2012 and since then it’s been working its way north.
“You start getting information from the Tree Council, so we have known it was coming for some time. The movement has been tracked and it got into South Yorkshire last year.
“It’s fugal spores below on the wind, so there’s very little you can do to stop it.
“It basically causes the vascular system to shut down. It means the tree becomes weaker, and then unable to hold itself up.
“Big branches can fall off. It happens over a season or two, but in tree terms, it’s quick.
“You start seeing these ‘pompoms’ where there’s clusters of growth and there’s lesions on the branches. The tree starts to die back into itself.”
One of the trees lost already in Clifton Park was about 150 years old (below, before and after). It stood beside a row or various species — themselves replacements for ones lost to Dutch elm disease in the 70s.
It is hoped that funding can be found to make a carving artwork feature of the remainder of the trunk.
“It will still rot down but the ones we had done in Rosehill Park at Rawmarsh are still there 15 years on,” said Mr Lee. “It’s not going to suddenly fall over, it’s just a matter of keeping an eye on it.
“In the future, we will be asking residents to help us identify where there are ash trees on both public and private land. If people have ash trees in their garden, they should check for the symptoms.
“If they think there’s ash dieback, they should let us know to help us track the disease across the borough.
“Where the trees are in their own gardens, they should speak to a qualified arboriculturist. If you own the tree, it’s you responsibility to sort out a problem such as this.”
Visit treecouncil.org.uk to find out more.
Plans To Plant
THE council’s tree removals are currently higher than its planting rate — but there is a commitment to change that.
The authority’s climate change emergency policy — adopted earlier this year — agrees to allocate more money for new trees.
It also acknowledged that ash dieback will kill many thousands of trees across private and council-owned sites.
Mr Lee said: “There’s going to be more budget for tree planting than we have ever had before, and ash die back was part of that consideration. We needed to plant more in Rotherham anyway.
“I started at Thrybergh Country Park years ago, and we’ve always been planting but we had to rely on external funding to do it.
“Last year, we added 2,000 at Greasbrough and Wingfield from some funding we had just for that particular scheme.
“Now the council is committing to a significant budget. Over the next ten years, we will be planting more than we lose.”
New trees would be a mix of saplings and standards of about 10ft, Mr Lee added.