Ash dieback: 'Wash after visiting woods' plea

An ash sapling There are fears that wind spores could carry the disease out of East Anglia

The environment secretary has urged the public to wash their dogs and boots and even their children after visiting wooded areas, to help stop the spread of a fungus which is killing ash trees.

Owen Paterson spoke after the government's emergency committee Cobra met to discuss the ash dieback menace.

Some 100,000 trees have been destroyed in the UK, where East Anglia has been particularly badly affected.

The infection has affected some 90% of ash trees in Denmark.

Ministers are concerned that the fungus could be present on fallen leaves and could be transferred via leaf mould.

Mr Paterson told the BBC: "Everyone should be responsible and if they do visit a wood just make sure they wash their boots, wash their dog, whatever's been running around the leaves, wash their child, to make sure they don't transfer to the next wood."

About 2,500 10sq km sites across the UK are being surveyed to establish how far the disease has spread, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Amid criticism from Labour, Mr Paterson denied the government had been slow to act when the infection was first discovered.

He said: "This disease was only established here on 7 March. During the summer, trees are not planted so a programme of inspection has gone on during which 100,000 trees have been destroyed.

"But as I have also made clear, this disease as we discovered recently has possibly blown in.

Symptoms of Chalara dieback

  • Diseased saplings typically display dead tops and side shoots.
  • Lesions often found at base of dead side shoots.
  • Lesions on branch or stem can cause wilting of foliage above.
  • Disease affects mature trees by killing off new growth.

"It's on the basis of that information that we're now working together right across government at the highest level, using expertise in every department, to bear down on the disease," he said.

Ash dieback, also known as Chalara dieback, is caused by the fungus Chalara Fraxinea.

The disease was first discovered in the UK in February in a consignment of trees imported from the Netherlands by a nursery in Buckinghamshire.

The Forestry Commission has said it has since been found at sites across England and Scotland, including Leicester, South Yorkshire, County Durham and in Knockmountain Woods near Glasgow.

The trees at all the locations above had been grown from young ash saplings obtained from nurseries within the past five years.

In October, scientists confirmed a spate of cases in Norfolk and Suffolk in trees not planted recently, which appear to form a wider infection zone.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke on how to spot an infected ash tree

Mobile app

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh has accused the government of "dithering" over the issue and has expressed concerns over cutbacks to the Forestry Commission's budget.

But environment minister David Heath denied there had been any cut back in resources "applied to plant health and tree health in this country".

Visible symptoms of ash dieback include leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees and it can lead to tree death.

The disease has been listed as a quarantine pathogen under national emergency measures and the Forestry Commission has produced guidance, including help on how people can identify possible signs of infection.

Experts are urging people to report suspected cases of dieback in order to prevent the spread of the disease to the wider environment becoming established.

An app, Ashtag, has been launched to try to map the spread of the disease by allowing users to upload pictures and report possible sightings to a team which will pass any information to the Forestry Commission.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Stable door, horse, bolted, closed in no particular order.

    What the point of this unless you going to wash foxes, insects, bird life etc.

    Reminds me of banning walkers from the countryside during foot and mouth. Pointless, ineffective, gesture regulations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    If trees die=less habitat=less food=migration to new woods...Birds of pey fly stupid miles.Badger runs from wood towood as foxes do.Ive watched them in my area.I do know what im on about... Ever seen white looking mold in wood floor? They can spread 100ds of yards.I know that different,but not that much different.Politicians are one dimensional=Money,power...

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Will80...Typical playing party politics...Look into it properly and you will find that on numerous occasions going back 5yrs the Labour and Defra were alerted to the problem by numerous organizations to do with agriculture and forestry but refused to ban imports for fear of falling foul of the EU 'free market' regulations. Unlike France who banned our beef for years on the outbreak of BSE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Beetle grubs in trees over winter,emerge springtime and fly off.Ants queens being sent out of nest to start new colonies.Its endless,you cannot beat mother nature unless you completely destroy it,end of...
    Wasps inject beetle grubs in trees they could spred it.Unless they find something that kills spores 100% and thats not going to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Are we going to have foot washing stations at the perimeter of each wood for all the deer, etc or are their feet magicly immune to pcking up the disease and dogs and humans aren't. !!!
    Unfortunately this is a laughable solution and a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Unforunately there is little we can do now to stop the spread of this disease - now its here

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Common sense is unfortunatly not prevalent in the UK. Many prefer to ridicule such suggestions.

    Ignorance is bliss

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Just let it spread and let nature take its course

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I blame the badgers and the quiet bat people. When can we expect the yew turn? It's an omn-ash-ambles!

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Spores are one of the toughest living organisms,Think kitchen,think mold,Just because you cant see it doesnt mean its not there.We are and so is anything that lives or is dying,its hardy stuff...

    HAHA you know what i mean. +1 anyway,lol.

    Not true @77

    Small wooded areas in close proximity,trust me its true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Gate. Bolted. Horse. Gone. Why didn't the government order washing of trucks' wheels at seaports when they arrived from Denmark and Germany? Dilly-dallying indecisiveness marks the Cameron administration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Well at least there is still a sense of humour amongst the environmentalists.

    Wash your shoes in what? Come out of woods, get in car and already the spores are on the rubber matting. Dog lying on a blanket in the back transferring spores.

    It will be the cattle moving from field to field and crossing roads that will transfer the spores faster than an MP can fill in a claim form.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    This has been taken out of context and only applies to plebs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Ok, since it does not appear to be obvious to everyone;

    Wildlife mostly move around in one small area. Humans, with cars etc move very large distances. The main reason behind asking you to wash is to prevent disease being spread from one wooded area to another which is not connected (so would not exchange wildlife).

    It's not a cure, it's not pretending to be, just a simple at-home preventative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    "Do the Birds flying from tree to tree, have to wash their feet."

    So that's why bird baths were invented.

    Don't know about you, but i do wash my clothes, body, and face daily.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.


    Boots clothes body face,almost like radiation wash i wood imagine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    I'm surprised there's any need to import ash trees. Every piece of abandoned ground is rapidly covered in them round here.

    I'd suggest replanting with the new, disease-resistant elms too. Many ash trees occupied the space left by them anyway.

    I'm wondering if some of these diseases are introduced by developers or their helpers, to get round TPOs...

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    How are we going to wash all the wildlife and also stop the rain and wind from spreading the spores? We are not going to be able to do that are we, so this advice about washing your boots , dog, the kids and perhaps your neighbours is all a bit ridiculous isn't it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Exactly!!! What about foxes, birds, squirrels,insects are they all to be scrubbed clean. Thought it was April 1st for a minute. Who says our government is out of touch with the real world?

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Do the Birds flying from tree to tree, have to wash their feet.What a gang of idiots we have running our Country!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    No one blaming the banks yet?!


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