The Brightwell-cum-Sotwell Environment Group has carried out surveys of much of the village flora, such as hedgerows and orchards. In the 1970s Dutch elm disease decimated much of the woodland in the southern half of the country. In recent times a new wave of pests and diseases affecting our woodland have been found and could become established in the village. The following have already been recorded in the UK: Chalara die-back of Ash; Oak Processionary Moth; and Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner. Thus it was felt that we needed to survey the trees in the village in order to discover if there was a problem here and if so what to do about it.
We expected to find plenty of examples of village tree surveys on the internet. However we initially found none and had to devise our own procedures in order to carry out a survey. Walking around the village, it became clear that there are a very large number of trees. To limit the trees recorded to a manageable number, only those greater than 25 metres high were counted. For most trees this was fine, but some species that do not grow very tall were under represented. The height of the trees was estimated using various techniques. The circumference at 1.5m was recorded. Only trees easily visible from roads or footpaths were included. All trees included in the survey were photographed for future reference.
Teams were created to cover as much of the village as possible. Due to access issues it was impossible to do a complete tree count. Deciduous trees comprised the bulk of those surveyed. There was a wide range of British tree types, with several examples of Ash, Beech, Lime, Oak and Sycamore being recorded. Most were well distributed, but Limes were concentrated in two areas, St Agatha’s churchyard and Sotwell House. Silver Birch and Horse Chestnut were also observed, but most of these were less than 25m tall.
Most trees looked healthy. Some Horse Chestnuts showed signs of disease causing the leaves to prematurely die. This is due to Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner. In the short term, this is not a bad problem, as it is not fatal to a tree, but possibly could weaken the tree in the long term. The mix of tree types in the village mean that the village woodland overall is very resistant to any new pests and diseases.
The results of the survey showed that we have a fairly healthy and resilient village woodland. Informal viewing of smaller trees showed they appeared to be in similar health to the larger trees. However new pests and diseases may wipe out individual species. Oak is most at danger should Oak Processionary Moth be found in the village.
Whilst there is not a case for repeating this survey on a regular basis, there is a need to check for pests and diseases annually. If these checks reveal pests and diseases new to the village, then these need to be reported to the local council, so that appropriate action may be taken. Residents who are concerned about their trees should seek professional guidance.
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