Sensitive tree safety work along the SDW at Shavards Farm in the Meon Valley, Hampshire have been completed and the trail reopened.
The Ash trees of the UK are under threat from a fungal infection. The disease commonly called Ash Dieback or Chalara, is caused by a non native fungus from eastern Asia called Hymenoscyphius fraxineus and our native Ash trees have little defence.
Ash trees are very common in the South East of England and some sections of the South Downs Way are lines with mature Ash trees. Unfortunately once infected the trees over a few years die back and their branches become brittle and break. It is therefore important to monitor their condition and remove trees that have a potential to drop branches on the Trail.
The canopy of the trees at Shavards Farm in Hampshire had died back over 75% and last week contractors with specialist equipment removed the most hazardous trees along the Trail. Mature trees are an incredibly valuable habitat, so the National Trail team employed ecologists and bat specialists to survey and assess each tree. Some trees were left if leaning away from the Trail, others were left as monoliths, with their main branches removed, but leaving valuable bird and bat roosting habitat. In all about 80 Ash stems were removed.
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The 1.15km section of the South Downs Way, at the foot of Old Winchester Hill, that links the Meon Valley Trail with the Monarch’s Way has been transformed.