Chalara ash dieback FAQ’s

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If you have recently visited Arnos Vale you will have noticed some changes in the landscape. This is due to Chalara ash dieback, a fungal disease that’s affecting ash trees in many woodlands, parks and gardens across the country. We are taking down the ash trees because we have almost total infection across the site.  People, monuments, graves and the heritage of this very special place are at risk from falling branches. You can find out more about how ash dieback will affect Arnos Vale in this blog by our Estate Supervisor, Liam, also in these FAQ’s below:

What are the signs of the disease? 

Chalara ash dieback can affect ash trees of all ages, although younger trees succumb to the disease much quicker. Signs of the disease include; 

  • Leaves developing dark patches in the summer. They then wilt, turn black and begin to fall to the ground 
  • Dark brown lesions develop where branches meet the trunk 
  • Shoots on the crown dieback during the summer 

Once a tree is infected the disease is usually fatal. There is no cure, but some trees are less susceptible than others. 

How does Ash die back damage trees? 

The spores enter the tree through its leaves. The tree may valiantly reject a branch if it knows it is diseased. But then when the tree sends out new spurts of growth, the disease penetrates even further and enters into the trunk, starving it of moisture. 

When was Ash dieback first noticed at Arnos Vale? 

Ash dieback was first spotted in the cemetery in 2017. At first it was only the young trees and saplings that appeared infected, but this soon spread to more mature trees. We now have almost total infection across the site, the signs of which are noticeable in reduced leaf cover in the crown and dead branches. 

Why are there so many self-seeded trees on site? 

Most of the trees emerged during the time of neglect when the cemetery was allowed to run into disrepair as part of a businessman’s long term plan to sell the cemetery off to property developersFortunately, since then the cemetery was saved by incredible campaigners and the charitable trust was established. 

Why do the trees need to be felled? 

Sadly Ash dieback has swept across Europe. Like the National Trust and countless others we have a land management plan. This is supported by The Forestry Commission and follows Woodland Trust recommendations. The disease is air born and highly contagious. In a site like this it means very quickly the trees become unsafe. People, monuments, graves and the heritage of this very special place are at risk from falling branches. 

How are trees selected for felling? 

Highly trained team members and expert tree surgeons identify trees for felling mainly when they are in leaf. Signs of the disease are very apparent at that time. It can be dangerous to climb and fell a tree if it has already dried out.  

What do the yellow and white circles on the trees mean? 

Trees with yellow circles are felled by our team and those with white circles are felled by outside tree surgeons who have been commissioned by Arnos Vale. In a day they might manage 3 trees. Those tyres you spot are there to support as the trees are brought down. It is vital that we limit any damage during this process. 

How long will the work take place? 

The work is ongoing and is taking a little longer than expected due to there being no volunteers on site to help move the cut branches. Bird nesting season is in March and this will be taken into consideration when felling the trees. The work will start back in earnest in October until March 2022. 

Will you be doing tree work during bird nesting season?

The official bird nesting season is between February and August. The majority of our tree work on site will intentionally fall outside of this period. However, due to the scale and nature of the ash dieback infection we will have to continue to perform necessary tree work during this season to ensure we maintain a safe site for our visitors to enjoy, albeit at a much reduced rate. During the bird nesting season we have put in place several procedures to ensure that we do not disturb nesting birds and comply with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Firstly we will perform a prework survey that will look for signs of birds nesting in the proposed tree as well as the immediate area surrounding.  If no signs of nesting birds are evident and the work is deemed necessary then the preference is to climb the tree and dismantle. This allows a closer inspection of the tree to be carried out on ascent thereby reducing the possibility of disturbing nesting birds as well as reducing the impact on the area surrounding the tree. If any bird nests are found then work will immediately stop.

Am I going to take ash dieback home to my garden after I visit? 

 We all have a part to play in the prevention of the spread of pests and diseases. Though Chalara ash dieback spreads on the wind-borne spores of the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineusand so there is little we can do to prevent the spread of the disease, the spread of other threats can be slowed or stopped by: 

  • Pests and diseases can spread in the mud and debris on shoes, paws and tyres, so simple measures such as cleaning your boots and car wheels after a walk can help to limit the spread of diseases. 
  • Don’t bring any plant or tree products back from trips abroad, because these might be carrying harmful non-native tree pests or pathogens. 
  • Be vigilant! Report any trees that you suspect are in ill-health to the Forestry Commission using Tree Alert 
  • Donate! You can help us look after Arnos Vale by supporting us with a donationEvery bit goes directly back into maintaining the site for the years to come, for everyone to enjoy. 

Is it safe to burn seasoned ash logs infected with Ash dieback?

Ash dieback is a highly destructive disease of ash trees; however, it is perfectly safe to use seasoned ash logs that have been affected. The spores are only harmful to other ash trees when they are in leaf. Ash dries out wonderfully fast, once felled. You can buy logs from our shop.

Can I take the branches that I see discarded on site?

Everything within the site, including fallen branches and logs is the property of Arnos Vale Cemetery. This means removing anything without consent is considered theft. Please contact us on if you’d like to buy some green wood to season at home. Some logs and branches may look abandoned, but they provide a valuable service to the ecosystem. Something we are passionate about supporting. You can find out more about deadwood habitats from the Woodland Trust.

Do dogs need to be on leads? 

Yes please. Arnos Vale has a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) that requires dogs are on leads at all times. Breaking a PSPO is a criminal offence and can lead to a fixed penalty notice or prosecution. The enforcement team often patrol the cemetery and can issue fines.

 If you’d like to ask us a question about our response to Ash dieback and our estate management plan do drop us a line to

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