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.
Prior to the improvements, the path was a mud-bath from late autumn through to early spring, with people struggling to pass, often preferring to hop over the fence and walk in the adjacent field to bypass the slippery terrain.
This section of bridleway has been on our radar for a while to improve, yet due to its location and shear length the cost to make the necessary repairs has always been beyond our reach.
However, with thanks to some additional funds raised through the ‘Mend Our Way’ campaign, initiated by the British Mountaineering Council, we were able to undertake the mammoth task repairing the trail. Over six weeks our contractors moved over 1000 tonnes of stone and materials, re-graded the pathway, improved drainage and laid the new surface.
We now have a hard-wearing stone surface which drains well and provides reliable access all-year-round.
For more information about the Mend our Way and Mend Our Mountains fundraiser campaigns please follow the link below: