AS the ash disease outbreak blighting trees around the country creeps ever closer to Worcestershire there are fears for the future of historic woodland scenes such as this at Tiddesley Wood, near Pershore.
Although the fungal disease has not yet officially reached the county, it is known to have reached nearby Warwickshire and south Shropshire.
There are more than 90 million ash trees in the UK, an estimated two million of them in Worcestershire.
Harry Green, who looks after 200-acre Tiddesley Wood and is a long-serving trustee with Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, is bracing himself for the worst when the disease “inevitably” arrives.
“It’s very difficult to put exact figures on it but probably one third of all the trees here are fully grown ash and there are an awful lot more saplings besides,” he said.
“It is inevitable that the outbreak will find its way here but what is much harder to predict is just how much damage it will cause.
“The worst case scenario is that an awful lot of trees die.
“It would be a gradual thing. Saplings will succumb quite quickly but from what I understand the bigger trees may die slowly over a number of years.”
Environment secretary Owen Paterson met scientists and foresters on Wednesday to discuss how to fight the outbreak. He is also talking to the EU about moves to issue “plant passports” and imposing a quarantine system.
But Mr Green believes this should have happened earlier to minimise the risk of the disease reaching these shores.
“People have watched this disease spread in Europe for the best part of 10 years. Perhaps if stopping it coming to this country had been taken more seriously then we would have had more chance of delaying it,” he said. “But even then, if the spores are coming on the wind as is being said, I think it would just have been delay rather than prevention.”