Battle begins to save our oaks

Councillors Chris Ready and Ron Conway with WLCT chief executive Stuart Murray, staff member Marcus Workman and tree surgeon Mark Stazicker

Councillors Chris Ready and Ron Conway with WLCT chief executive Stuart Murray, staff member Marcus Workman and tree surgeon Mark Stazicker

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A RADICAL emergency programme to strip out 150 year old bushes from Haigh Hall is bang on schedule.

Tree experts have advised Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust to remove all the tangled formations of Rhododendrons from the plantations in the country park to “save” this regionally significant woodland.

The disease threatening the future of the nation’s ash trees – die back – may be occupying the headlines.

But in the borough, a condition threatening Haigh’s magnificent oak trees, which is now linked with the ancient bushes, is of more immediate concern.

And the Trust are now well into the start of a £100,000 three year programme to eventually remove the ancient bushes from the 100 acre site altogether.

Naturalists have identified a fungal disease called Phytophthora ramorum, more commonly known as Sudden Oak Death, on the plantations site which now poses a “significant risk,” having destroyed more than three million trees since it was identified a decade ago.

To date WLCT has identified seven infected areas of rhododendrons at Haigh which act as “sporulating hosts” leading to a higher infection rate in the trees that surround them.

No affected trees have yet been affected ... but removal of the rhododendrons is seen as a way of protecting the woodlands at Haigh and contributing to the battle nationally.

Biodiversity manager for WLCT Graham Workman said: “Doing nothing was not an option.

“This work is compulsory and part of a national strategy to stop the spread of infection but has also been opening up spectacular views of the woodland which visitors to Haigh have been remarking on to our wardens.

“By working now to remove the rhododendrons from site we can safeguard the future of this regionally significant woodland.”