Trees which inspired Constable’s art under threat from ash dieback disease

Trees near Flatford Mills could be at risk Picture: ARCHANT

Trees near Flatford Mills could be at risk Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Trees and woods which inspired painter John Constable could be lost due to a surge in deadly ash dieback, the National Trust has warned.

The conservation charity said it faces its worst year on record for felling trees due to devastating disease.

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Increased prolonged hot and dry conditions, driven by climate change, are putting trees under stress and making them more susceptible to disease, dramatically speeding up the impact of ash dieback, the trust said.

Ash dieback is caused by a fungus from Asia which was first recorded in the UK in 2012, which blocks its water systems and causes leaves to wilt, shoots to die back, lesions on branches and eventually the death of the tree.

One of the landscapes the National Trust is most concerned about is the woodlands surrounding the home of painter John Constable, in Flatford.

Ash trees feature prominently in some of his most famous studies of the area.

Lockdown meant ranger teams which would ordinarily carry out felling and maintenance work to ensure tree safety could not do so - leaving them playing catch-up now and diverting resources from other conservation work.

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While the National Trust has been felling around 4,000 to 5,000 trees a year in recent times, largely as a result of ash dieback, this year it faces having to cut down around 40,000 trees - at a cost of £2million.

Set to kill between 75% and 95% of the UK’s ash trees, the disease is expected to wipe out around 2.5million trees on National Trust land alone, with hundreds of thousands having to be felled to ensure public safety.

National tree and woodland adviser Luke Barley said: “Ash dieback is a catastrophe for nature.

“Our landscapes and woodlands are irrevocably changing before our eyes, and this year’s combination of a dry spring and late frost may have dramatically sped up the spread and severity of ash dieback.

“As well as the cultural impact of losing these historic sites, there are also implications for climate change as less carbon is sequestered, homes for wildlife are being removed and people’s access to nature is being diminished.”

The charity is making a direct appeal to the public to replace lost woodland by donating to the Everyone Needs Nature campaign.