Ash dieback spreads to Minehead woodland

Ash dieback has been found for the first time in established woodland in Somerset, Defra has confirmed.

Two earlier cases have been recorded affecting newly planted trees in the county - the first of which was near Nether Stowey in November 2012.

But now another affected area of woodland has been identified near Minehead. It is the first time the disease has been found in mature trees.

The disease has now spread to 564 sites across 15 counties in England.

Defra said officials were "not surprised" to discover ash dieback in Somerset as it had already been confirmed in neighbouring counties, such as Dorset.

Head of sustainable forest management at the Forestry Commission, Andrew Smith, said: "Across most counties in England we have found cases of recently planted trees with infection.

"The next step in progression is when we find the disease starting to circulate in the wider environment.

"So what's happened on a small scale in this woodland near Minehead is that the disease is now no longer confined to the patch of trees that were planted a few years ago."

Experts have said the disease poses a danger to the UK's population of 80 million ash trees.

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