Monday February 21, 2022
Forestry England rangers at Leigh Woods have closed a section of permissive path because of safety concerns. The route is the popular track from the Grotto Trail below Leigh Court down to the river towpath at the Miles Dock, beyond Paradise Bottom. Routine tree inspections have identified a high number of ash trees suffering from chalara ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus).
When the fungal disease starts to take hold, a tree’s condition and stability can deteriorate very quickly as the trunk and branches become brittle. Diseased trees are at greater risk of dropping branches or falling altogether, posing a significant risk to any people below. Ordinarily, Forestry England would remove infected trees to make the area safe. However, the steep banks in this part of the forest together with the diseased state of the trees, mean that there is no safe way to do this, either with machinery or by hand.
The Leigh Woods team has made the difficult decision to permanently divert this route. There will still be access to the forest from the same point of the river bank, albeit via a slightly longer route. The diseased ash trees along the closed track will be allowed to live out their natural lifespan while providing valuable habitat for forest wildlife.