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Friday, 28 November 2014

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Four Cumbrian sites confirmed with ash dieback disease

Forestry chiefs say there are now four confirmed sites in Cumbria affected by the deadly tree disease ash dieback.

Officials have issued a national map which reveals the full extent of the disease across the UK – with counties in the south eastern coastal area of England being the worst affected.

In Cumbria, there are four identified sites – all linked to recently-planted ash trees which officials have traced from tree sources known to be diseased.

The exact locations are not revealed by the map of Forestry Commission officials, but there has been a report of a case in the Aspatria area.

But one lies between Carlisle and Brampton, another is between Penrith and Brough and the other two are located north west and south east of Keswick.

Keith Jones, an area director in the north west for the Forestry Commission, said efforts would continue to see whether any more recently planted infected trees were present in Cumbria but there is so far no evidence of ash dieback in older trees.

This level of “wider environment” disease has been found at many sites in eastern counties, particularly Norfolk, Suffolk, and Kent.

He said: “The four sites in Cumbria are where nursery stock has been planted in the environment.

“They can range from just a very few trees – as few as seven – to slight bigger groups.”

He said there is to be a meeting in Cumbria this week to discuss how the crisis will be tackled. Groups attending include The Lake District National Park, Cumbria County Council, Natural England and the Environment Agency.

The disease has had a huge impact nationwide, with thousands of trees having to be destroyed to curb its spread.

Last month, ash dieback was confirmed at a four-hectare National Trust plantation at Watendlath.

Ian Wright, a plant health specialist at the National Trust, said it was the first of several sites where suspected cases have been found on trust land over the past couple of weeks.

Woodland experts were working with the Food and Environment Research Agency to look for signs of disease.

As a precautionary measure trust workers had started to remove and destroy the 1,000 new plantings, which were less than a metre tall, to protect older trees, he said.

The origin of the infection in the trees, which were planted around two years ago, has not yet been confirmed.

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