Could town’s magnificent trees help in ash crisis?

Magnificent trees at Haigh Woodland are a sight to see this autumn
Magnificent trees at Haigh Woodland are a sight to see this autumn

Some of Wigan’s most majestic trees may arrest a growing environmental disaster.

It was revealed this week that the devastating Ash dieback fungus looks set to wipe out most of the country’s ash trees.

Borsdane is an ancient woodland going back hundreds of years and it would be marvellous to think that it could now take on national importance.

Graham Workman

But strangely Wigan has yet to report a single instance of the Chalara (dieback) bug, despite there being large scale ash forests at Borsdane in Hindley and the Haigh Plantations.

And Wigan’s bio diversity manager Graham Workman believes the grand age of our old established ash trees may be allowing them to show an immunity to the disease, a fact which is causing great interest among tree experts.

In future, seedlings from Wigan stock could be used to re-forest affected parts of England which have had to have existing ash trees felled and burned.

Mr Workman, also an environmental consultant working nationwide, said: “We haven’t got any confirmed instances of Chalara in Wigan to date - and let’s hope it stays that way.

“There is nothing specific that the council have done to keep it out, because there is nothing yet that we know can be done.

“But one of the things that act in our favour is that 99 per cent of the ash that we have in the woodlands here in Wigan is self-generated and that will automatically have some resilience.

“When it was first reported some years ago it frightened the life out of me because ash is one of my favourite trees, one of nature’s most important and one of those trees that any wood would be so much poorer without.

“Woodlands like Borsdane in Hindley have 70 per cent ash, so if it took hold in there it would be totally devastating and very dramatic.

“But it would appear that the ash trees there have some natural resistance to it, which would be fantastic news for helping to regenerate other woodlands across the country which haven’t been so lucky.

“You never know, but our stock could be nationally significant in helping to stock the south of England with ash.

“In every woodland there will be trees with the necessary genetic stock that, as an old tree, has had time to evolve its natural defences against Chalara. But it seems that here in Wigan we may have a significantly larger number of such ash trees than many areas and they could have built up that resistance over Millennia.

“Borsdane is an ancient woodland going back hundreds of years and it would be marvellous to think that it could now take on national importance. And it is the same at the bottom of Haigh Plantations where we have a really healthy percentage of ash.”