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Disease threatens Wales' largest ancient woodland

General - ancient woodlands

The Woodland Trust is being required to fell 60ha of larch woodland at Wentwood Forest in Wales to stem the spread of the Phytophthora ramorum disease.

Phytophthora ramorum is a fungus-like pathogen which can attack a wide numbers of trees and plants, but which in the UK has principally affected larch trees. The fungus has already required the clear-felling of over 200ha of woodland at Wentwood, but has sadly spread to new areas of the forest. The work began in December and is set to continue into the New Year.

The Woodland Trust acquired 353ha of Wentwood in 2006 with the aim of restoring the forest, removing conifers to all native broadleaf trees and ancient woodland to return.

Rob Davies, Woodland Trust site manager at Wentwood said: "The message from me is ‘Don’t panic!’ It’s a huge shame that the disease has spread to even more of the wood, but we will remove the trees as required by law, and replant as soon as we can with new native saplings: oak, cherry, rowan, birch and hazel."

According to the trust, sites such a Wentwood were planted with conifers in the 1940s and 1950s to provide fast growing wood for building and are known as ‘plantations on ancient woodland’. It also highlighted the risks currently facing woodlands in the UK, with six of the pests and diseases attacking trees having reached epidemic levels.

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