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Tree felling due to Phytophthora - Larch Disease

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Tree felling at Stanage Plantation

In April 2021, the presence of Phytophthora ramorum, a highly infectious plant disease, was confirmed in woodlands on the North Lees Estate.

What is Phytophthora ramorum?

Phytophthora ramorum (P.ramorum) is a form of water mould which affects both the foliage and bark of infected trees causing cankers (lesions which exude fluid). This infection can lead to the gradual death of branches and needles/leaves of infected trees, with the tree dying once the lesions become extensive on the main trunk.

P.ramorum affects over 150 different species of plants. Larch trees are highly susceptible to the disease and have been badly infected in some of our woodlands alongside sweet chestnut trees and Rhododendron. Sycamore and beech trees are also susceptible to the disease, but are likely to recover once any infected larch and sweet chestnut trees have been removed.

To find out more about P.ramorum, visit: Forest Research. If you spot any of these symptoms on trees while you are out and about, report them here: TreeAlert

Which areas are affected?

The map below shows the areas of woodland which have been confirmed to be infected with P.ramorum (yellow).

Affected larch trees - Stanage (Dec 2021)

Why are trees being felled?

The Forestry Commission have issued a Statutory Plant Health Notice (SPHN) for areas of our woodland which are infected with P.ramorum (see map above). This legally requires us (the owners of the woodland) to fell all the larch and sweet chestnut trees within these areas.

These trees are being cut down and removed to help prevent the further spread of the disease to other areas of woodland on the estate and in neighbouring woodlands.

Cutting down diseased and highly susceptible species such as larch helps to protect other areas of woodland which could be infected. We will be removing the infected timber from site and will be restoring and enhancing the site through natural regeneration and re-planting in due course.

Felling operations

Felling and extraction operations will be undertaken at Stanage Plantation between early January and the end of March 2022.

Felling will be undertaken by hand and by harvester where possible, with the use of banksmen to ensure that Public Rights of Way and Access Land will remain open to the public.

Parking at Hollin Bank Car Park

Part of Hollin Bank car Park will be used to stack and store timber prior to removal from site.  The other part will remain open to the public, please follow on site signage to ensure you park in the correct area.

What happens next?

Felling and extraction operations will be carried out sensitively to avoid damage to the surrounding SSSI. The extraction route has been chosen carefully to avoid designated features.

Once all felling and extraction operations have been completed, we will be working closely with our Landscape and Ecology teams to manage the re-stocking of any felled areas through natural regeneration and re-planting with a mixture of broadleaf species, including oak, birch, alder and rowan.

We will be undertaking vegetation enhancement along the extraction route once works are complete. This will involve spreading heather brash sourced from the moorlands above, containing heather seed, along the extraction route. The seed will hopefully establish where bracken beds have been disturbed. In the future, braken control will be targeted in areas where heather re-establishes. We will also be working closely with our Ecology and Countryside Maintenance teams to enhance the surrounding SSSI land once extraction of timber has taken place.

Even though the felling of infected areas will change the feel and look of our woodlands, this is an opportunity for us to look at how we can help to make our woodlands resilient to other tree pests and diseases and other pressures such as climate change.


Why are trees being cut down in some parts of the National Park?

Forestry experts have identified an outbreak of the tree disease Phytophthora Ramorum in areas of the Peak District including the Goyt Valley and Stanage North Lees estate, affecting large numbers of larch (Larix species) trees and a smaller number of Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa). As a result of the discovery of the disease, a Statutory Plant Notice now places a legal obligation on the respective landowner(s) to complete work to fell infected trees in the affected area.


Why do the trees need to be cut down/can't they be treated?

Felling is the only effective way to prevent further spread of the disease, and stop it killing other trees and plants in the affected area. Infection occurs through spores dispersed in moisture, including moist air currents so it is essential that affected trees are removed to prevent the spread.


What will happen?

Infected trees will be felled by approved contractors, and removed from the area. Spraying and follow-up felling may continue until 2024.


Will other trees be affected by the works?

Some adjacent tree specimens may need to be removed to allow access to safely fell the affected larch trees, as the removal of larch may leave remaining trees (such as pines) too exposed and susceptible to damage. A small number of infected veteran sweet chestnut trees will be pruned by tree surgeons where applicable to remove the affected branches but retain these valuable trees.


Will the areas affected be re-planted?

The areas affected will be re-planted with tree species that are resilient to the disease to ensure the future of the respective woodlands for generations to come. The felled trees will be used where possible as construction timber, fencing materials, pallet wood and biomass.

The areas affected will be re-planted with tree species that are resilient to the disease to ensure the future of the respective woodlands for generations to come.

The re-planting is funded by the Peak District National Park Foundation thanks to generous donations and the fundraising efforts of Peak Running - Run for the Birds. To support more work like this you can donate.


Will any access be restricted?

Rights of way or car park areas used for heavy plant may be temporarily closed when works are underway for public safety, and visitors are urged to observe all diversions or closures.

Route closures will be notified and supported by on-site signage.


What about the future landscape?

Forestry England will be working with the National Park Authority to ensure valuable features including wildlife and archaeology are impacted as little as possible by these necessary works. We will also support the plans to re-plant the woodland and ensure it remains representative and complimentary to the Peak District landscape of the area.


What is Phytophora?

P Ramorum is a non-native, fungus-like organism first discovered in the UK in 2002. It causes disease on trees, shrubs and plants in woodland, heathland, gardens and nurseries. As a form of water mould P. Ramorum affects both the foliage and bark of infected trees causing cankers (lesions which exude fluid). This infection can lead to the gradual death of branches and needles/leaves of infected trees, with the tree dying once the lesions become extensive on the main trunk.

P.ramorum affects over 150 different species of plants. Larch trees are highly susceptible to the disease and have been badly infected in some of our woodlands alongside sweet chestnut trees and Rhododendron. Sycamore and beech trees are also susceptible to the disease, but are likely to recover once any infected larch and sweet chestnut trees have been removed.

To find out more about P.ramorum, visit: Forest Research. If you spot any of these symptoms on trees while you are out and about, report them here: TreeAlert


Can I help stop the spread of Phytophora?

Phytophthora Ramorum ‘Larch disease’ is a plant pathogen and is harmless to people and animals. You can help reduce its impact in the countryside through the following actions:

  • Clean soil and mud from boots, shoes and bike tyres before leaving woodland
  • Thoroughly wash boots/shoes/tyres (preferably with disinfectant) before visiting other areas
  • Keep to marked paths
  • Keep dogs on leads
  • Do not remove plant material from woodlands

Last updated: January 2021

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