Experts fear devastating ash tree virus could spread through Derbyshire woodlands

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Wildife experts fear a deadly virus which wipes out ash trees will spread through Derbyshire this autumn, after the first examples of the disease were found in the county.

The chalara ash dieback condition has already devastated millions of ash trees in Denmark and was found in parts of the UK last year.

Last week the disease was found in two Derbyshire trees; one in Ashbourne and one in Clay Cross.

Now Kieron Huston, sites officer for the Derbyshire WIldlife Trust, said he believed the number of cases would grow as the summer progressed.

He said: “It seems these trees found locally were already affected by the disease when they were brought in and planted.

“But the chances are we will see more trees affected in Derbyshire, in other areas, as the year progresses.

“This is a very serious issue. It could affect areas of woodland in Matlock, in the Gorge and Matlock Bath and many other parts of the county.

“We are trying to get funding to look at what we might do if woodland is seriously affected. We want to plant replacement trees to try and save wildlife in those areas.”

Chalara as dieback was discovered by scientists in UK ash trees for the first time in November.

It led to widespread fear that trees across the country would be affected and, in the course of a few weeks, stricken trees were found in East Anglia and Kent and subsequently in other counties.

The Government held emergency meetings to discuss how to handle the problem but, over the winter, the problem slowed down.

But, as predicted by experts from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, the disease has started to spread again, with the arrival of the warmer weather.

On Wednesday, June 5, the Forestry Commission confirmed a young tree, in Ashbourne, was found to be riddled with ash dieback.

And another newly-planted tree in the car park of the Tesco Extra store, in Clay Cross, has also been struck by the virus.