Large scale tree felling for safety reasons will be taking place along the A49 at Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum over the next few weeks.
The work will require traffic management as the works will be taking place adjacent to the A49 road to the south of the entrance to Queenswood. Traffic management is due to start on 17th October and will include some lane closures and traffic lights. This management will be in place from 9.30am to 3.30pm daily, on week days only, and is due to end on November 11th.
The works are being done to remove diseased ash and other trees that are at risk of falling into the road. Ash is the dominant species of tree in this part of the wood and many of them are showing signs of dieback due to the fungal disease Hymenoscyphus fraxineus also known as ‘chalara’. The disease is affecting woodlands across the UK and has already caused widespread damage in continental Europe. Visible symptoms include dead branches, blackening of leaves and discoloured stems. Trees may eventually drop limbs, collapse or fall as the tree rots from the inside.
Staff carry out regular surveys of the woods to monitor tree safety and infectious diseases and identified the dieback in the trees a number of years ago. The degree of dieback is now sufficiently severe that the trees need to be felled before they become dangerous.
In some places other trees nearby will also have to be felled to enable safe felling of the target trees, or because, if left standing, they will be more exposed to strong winds once the target trees have gone. The work will also include the removal of a number of oak trees growing on the edge of a steep and unstable slope on the south eastern edge of the wood, beside the A49. In recent years some of these oaks have already fallen into the road. As road closures will be required to remove the diseased ash, the opportunity is being taken to remove these oaks that have started to fall onto the A49.
Esther Clarke, Reserves Team Manager for Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, says
“Once the felling has taken place the woodland will be allowed to regenerate naturally. The removal of the trees will temporarily allow more light onto the woodland floor which will encourage a flush of woodland flowers and shrubby undergrowth over the next few years. This will be ideal habitat for birds, butterflies and small mammals, such as dormice. Gradually the healthy trees will grow back and new saplings will germinate and replace the diseased ash trees.”
This is the second programme of works to be undertaken at Queenswood: an initial programme of felling took place earlier in the year focused on the A49 roadside to the north of the entrance.
Within the Arboretum, away from the roadside, ash trees are individually monitored for signs of the dieback disease and, if they are close to path or specimen tree, they too are removed for safety. However, where ash trees are not close to paths, in particular within the native woodland surrounding the Arboretum, they are left standing. Some may show resistance to the disease, otherwise they will be left to naturally rot – creating standing deadwood and fallen deadwood which itself is a fantastic habitat for wildlife, providing a home for a huge variety of beetles and other insects, birds and mammals.
- Why is traffic management needed?
- The contractors have to work very close to the road and sometimes on the road itself and so for their safety and in case a tree falls into the road one lane has to be closed for some of the time they are working.
- There will also be traffic lights. This could last 3-4 weeks.
- The timber is being collected from the roadside because it is too steep to extract it from within the wood without damaging the woodland floor and paths
- Will paths in the woodland and arboretum be affected?
- Parts of Sovereign Walk and Nutts Ride will need to be closed for part of the works
- The work will take place outside of school holidays and we aim to complete it before the start of the main show of autumn colours in the arboretum, to minimise impact on visitors.
- What about the wildlife?
- An independent survey has been carried out to check the trees for potential bat roosts and for signs of dormice and nesting birds
- Instructions have been given to the contractors regarding minimising disturbance to wildlife including not felling certain trees that may contain bats or felling them carefully (ie taking them down in sections) to reduce the disturbance
- The contractors are used to working in wildlife-rich woodlands and know what to look out for in terms of bats, birds, dormice and deer
- Officers from HWT will be supervising the work and regularly checking for birds nesting and signs of bat and dormice
- Will we be replanting trees?
- We are not planning to replant trees as we want the healthy trees to grow back and others to regenerate naturally. This is better than planting as it means nature can decide which are the best trees to grow in the wood so they will be healthier and better adapted to the conditions.
- The removal of lots of tall trees will allow more light onto the woodland floor which will encourage natural regrowth of trees
- While the new trees are growing the woodland floor will make the most of the extra light and will hopefully come alive with flowers, grasses and shrubs. Butterflies and other insects will enjoy the sunlight too and birds and dormice will nest and feed in the shrubby growth
- As the woodland re-develops we will be able to manage it in such a way that it doesn’t start to cause threat to the road again, through encouraging the shrubby growth and maintaining a wider, grassy-flowery verge. This will create a corridor for wildlife, such as sun-loving insects, to travel along beside the road.
- What is happening to the trees that are felled?
- To keep costs down and reduce impact on the traffic on the road, the quickest way to remove the trees that are felled is to chip them at the side of the road and send the woodchip away in trucks for biomass energy
- Some of the higher quality timber that can be extracted and stacked within the wood will be sold for timber at a later date. This will help to bring in some money to offset some of the costs of the whole operation
- HWT is not making money from this – we are doing it because we need to ensure that the trees do not pose a risk to the traffic on the road