Campaign to Protect Rural England Standing up for your countryside

Skip to navigation

The battle to save England's ash trees

Hedgerow trees like Ash are vital for our landscapes Hedgerow trees like Ash are vital for our landscapes © CPRE

The Ash is the second most common hedgerow tree and its survival is crucial to the character of the English countryside

Latest: CPRE attended the Government's emergency Ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) summit on Wednesday 7th Nov, leading to the publication of a Chalara Action Plan

Emma Marrington, CPRE's Rural Policy Campaigner: "We welcome the Government’s ban on ash imports to the UK and their commitment to discover the extent of ash dieback and to contain its spread. We hope these measures will reduce the spread of ash dieback disease and prevent the loss of this iconic species. If the disease were to spread across the English countryside then it would have a huge impact on our familiar rural landscapes, including ash trees in hedgerows. While positive steps are being taken to control the disease, which was recently confirmed at 115 sites across the UK, CPRE believes that the Government can go further to improve the future for trees and woodlands by:

•    Doing everything in their power to implement the Chalara Action Plan and continue working with representatives from all areas of forestry, plant health and conservation to turn words into action;
•    Adopting the recommendations in the Independent Panel on Forestry’s final report, with an urgent focus on delivery of the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan by additional investment in research on tree and woodland diseases, resilience and biosecurity controls;
•    Supporting the Independent Panel on Forestry’s call to increase England’s woodland cover by 50 per cent by 2060, in order to increase the resilience of our woodlands. CPRE suggests that Government could initiate a competition on where to create a second National Forest for England, following in the footsteps of the successful Midlands National Forest, or make woodland creation a priority for the next round of Nature Improvement Areas;
•    Considering extra protections for some of our most important woodlands. For example, CPRE has been campaigning for the Forest of Dean to be made an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This would ensure that this unique and much-loved area gets the stronger protection it needs and deserves;
•    Consulting on improvements to the Hedgerows Regulations so that a broader range of countryside hedges will be retained, if they are threatened with removal. Ash is the second most common hedgerow tree so the more hedges that are classed as ‘important’ under the Regulations, the greater the chance we have of saving more native ash hedgerow trees."

ancient Pollarded ash
Above: ancient pollarded ash trees on the Herefordshire and Worcestershire border - a feature of the English landscape for centuries.

CPRE President, Sir Andrew Motion, told The Times that the failure to heed earlier warnings of the threat to ash trees is symptomatic of a lack of care for the countryside:

"Because of climate change and the crisis that we’re talking about in relation to ash trees, people’s consciousness of what might be at risk is higher. This particular problem forms part of a pattern of a larger neglect of or lack of care for one of the most precious things in the country, which is its landscape."

CPRE Vice President Jonathan Dimbleby told The Times: “Trees aren’t taken seriously. I am appalled that this will devastate the countryside. Ash is in so many copses woods and hedges. We need to encourage more planting of trees.”

Sir Andrew and Jonathan have joined CPRE's other Honorary Officers, including Bill Bryson, in calling for the Government to use the UK's Contingency Fund to deal with the emergency facing our woodlands. As well as Ash Dieback, they have urged the Government to tackle acute oak decline, which is killing mature trees; phytophthora, which affects a range of trees such as larch, beech and oak; and bleeding canker, which kills many horse chestnuts.

Find out more:
The Times - film and interview with Sir Andrew Motion

Scientific Factsheet



Back to top

Autumn shropshire hills - Shutterstock