The felling and removal of diseased larch infected with Phytopthora ramorum on our Ayr Gorge Woodlands Wildlife Reserve in Ayrshire has been a complicated operation due to the location, topography and expense of path repairs on the site.
The Trust had to comply with a Statutory Plant Health Notice (SPHN) from Scottish Forestry to fell the diseased larch found on the site. This was carried out during August 2023.
Instead of felling to waste which would have cost a lot of money and left the site in a terrible state contractors Jim Wilmer and Sons worked with the Trust to find a way of removing the timber with minimal damage and cost to the Trust. Timber removal will be ongoing so please beware of moving vehicles and obey safety signage if visiting the reserve this autumn.
Gill Smart, Reserves Manager, said: “From an ecological point of view, this is actually quite exciting. Being a non-native plantation on an ancient woodland site, there has long been an aspiration to convert the larch blocks to native woodland. I’d been putting it off because it seemed too difficult. Now, with a Statutory Plant Health Notice, I had to find a way.
“The long-term plan is to promote native woodland through natural regeneration and planting.
“All the necessary pre-surveys were carried out such as checking for a range of protected species. The felling took place outside of the bird breeding season and a consent obtained for NatureScot.”
Phytophthora ramorum is a highly destructive, algae-like organism called a water mould. It causes extensive damage and death to more than 150 plant species, including trees. Larch trees, which are widely grown for the timber market, are particularly susceptible.
Ramorum disease on larch trees is sometimes called ‘larch tree disease’, ‘Japanese larch disease’ (although European and hybrid larch are also hosts) and ‘sudden larch death’.
Watch this video of trees being felled and how the site now looks.