Ashes to ashes – but Lakeland park has a phoenix plan
Ash trees went up in smoke at an Ambleside holiday park’s fireworks night this year after autumn revealed the alarming number of trees stricken with a fatal fungal disease.
But according to Skelwith Fold park director Henry Wild, the bonfire doesn’t signal the end of the story – because five new native trees will be planted for every ash reduced to ashes.
“Ash dieback” has been sweeping across Britain in recent years, and the Woodlands Trust estimates that the UK will lose up to 95% of its specimens.
Scores of ashes in the 130-acres grounds of Skelwith Fold have succumbed to dieback, says Henry, threatening important wildlife habitats:
“Autumn has shown the extent of the problem because we can now see the number of ashes with leaves which are turning to black and starting to shed early,” he said.
“They are only a tiny percentage of the trees on our park, and in fairness the woodlands here are putting on a magnificent autumn display of colours.
“But the ashes are part of our biodiversity, and we are determined to fight back by replacing every ash going up in flames with five new indigenous trees.
“We’ll be giving preference to types which are less common on our grounds, and which provide particular benefits to animals and birdlife.
“They will include sweet chestnuts, English yew, and Scots pine trees which can help our red squirrel population by attracting pine martins which predate on grey squirrels,” said Henry.
This October, Skelwith Fold was announced as winner of the annual David Bellamy Conservation Award, an accolade it has held for almost 20 years at its top gold level.
The award, made after an inspection by Professor Bellamy’s assessors, praised the family-run park’s management of its woodlands near the shores of Windermere.
Skelwith Fold provides luxury glamping pods, safari tents, holiday homes to own, and touring pitches – and Henry says that the natural world is his park’s greatest attraction to guests:
“For that reason, we fully intend to rise phoenix-like from the ashes of this situation, and to finish up with even more habitats and feeding resources for wildlife than previously.
“Our staff are doing a fantastic job of planting the replacement saplings, and the ashes went up in a blaze of glory at our annual fireworks party this month!” said Henry.