Phytophthora ramorum, a highly destructive tree disease which has been creating significant damage across the UK in recent years, has been identified at Wyming Brook nature reserve.
A significant operation will take place starting this winter to remove specific trees in the affected areas around the site.
Update 29/11/22: The FAQs have been updated to reflect that works may now be split between this winter and next autumn/winter to accommodate complex logistics whilst ensuring minimised disruption to the bird nesting season, and allowing access during the popular spring/summer months.
Frequently asked questions regarding the Wyming Brook tree works
We’ve compiled a selection of frequently asked questions relating to the tree works taking place at Wyming Brook.
A microscopic fungus-like organism called Phytophthora ramorum is causing tree disease in certain species across the UK. Unfortunately, as there is no cure and the disease can rapidly spread, the scientific advice is to fell those species of trees in an infected area.
Sadly, the disease has been confirmed across several sites in Sheffield, including at Wyming Brook nature reserve and some surrounding areas. Therefore works will soon take place to remove a number of trees across the site. It is important to say that only two species, larch and sweet chestnut, are severely affected.
Phytophthora ramorum is a microscopic fungal-like organism (oomycete) which causes extensive damage and death to various species. Phytophthora translates to ‘plant destroyer’, and the genus has been responsible for some of the worst plant epidemics in history — including being the primary source of the infamous Irish potato famine in the 19th century.
Spores easily spread in wind-driven rain and can travel for several miles. When they land on a tree they will begin to spread, breaking down leaf cells and eventually growing into the tree. As the phytophthora grows it blocks the tree’s water transport system, eventually killing the tree. This process can occur quickly in certain species of tree, such as larch.
Particularly affected by Phytophthora ramorum are larch (larix decidua) and sweet chestnut (castanea sativa) trees, a number of which are present around Wyming Brook and some surrounding areas. Other trees such as rhododendron can be vectors (carriers) but remain unaffected.
As there is no cure and the disease can rapidly spread, the scientific advice is to remove certain species of tree in an infected area.
To this end, we expect to receive a Statutory Plant Health Notice requiring removal work to begin. This is an official notice and once issued a landowner is required to comply with the order.
Only the most susceptible species to the phytophthora ramorum pathogen will be removed. This will certainly include all larch in the infected areas. Subject to instruction in the Statutory Plant Health Notice, we may also be required to remove sweet chestnut from certain areas also.
Wyming Brook nature reserve does have a variety of tree species – including birch, oak, rowan, beech, Scots pine, black pine, alder and willow – which are unaffected and will remain untouched.
Over time the woodland will naturally regenerate with the readily seeding native tree species such as oak, birch and rowan, which will provide the benefit of a more resilient woodland. Additionally, opening up the canopy will allow more light to reach the forest floor which in turn will encourage ground flora and more of a scrub layer to develop. Together, these elements will create excellent wildlife habitat.
Phytophthora ramorum has rapidly spread across the UK in recent years, including a number of sites throughout Sheffield.
In the immediate locality, the disease has also been identified in some of the neighbouring lands to Wyming Brook and we are also liaising with those landowners to try to collectively create an efficient programme of works to minimise disturbance in the area, where possible.
For example, the larch trees around Rivelin Dams are also being removed by Yorkshire Water, who will be using Wyming Brook Drive and car park for some of their operations.
Planning is still at an early stage but we expect works to begin this winter. Two periods of works are currently proposed. The works around Rivelin Dams by Yorkshire Water will begin first, followed by the Wyming Brook area.
Neighbouring landowner Yorkshire Water will initially be removing affected trees from around the Rivelin Dams area. Whilst this phase doesn’t involve trees in Wyming Brook nature reserve directly, it will be necessary for Yorkshire Water to utilise Wyming Brook Drive and the car park off Redmires Road for the duration of their works. Dates are yet to be confirmed, but we expect this to happen during this coming winter period, subject to various logistics and notices.
There will then be a break to ensure minimal disruption during the bird nesting season and the popular spring/summer months for visitors. The Trust then aim to start work on affected trees in Wyming Brook nature reserve itself around September 2023.
As soon as we know a definite schedule, we will update our dedicated Wyming Brook works webpage.
During works we aim to minimise disruption to wildlife as much as possible. For example, felling and extraction will take place over autumn and winter, outside of bird nesting season.
In the short-to-medium term we expect an unavoidable dramatic effect on the landscape and disruption to some of the habitat on the nature reserve.
However, the Trust has identified several opportunities that will present themselves following any necessary tree removal. We will work to create a more resilient woodland for the future. Gaps in the canopy will allow native broadleaf trees and shrubs such as oak, birch, rowan and holly to regenerate naturally, as well as the chance for ground flora to develop where light reaches the forest floor. In time this will provide excellent wildlife habitat.
In some situations – where safe to do so – we may be able to ‘ring-bark’ certain trees, creating a valuable standing deadwood resource, to create a fantastic habitat for invertebrates, and in time, cavities for a whole manner of species to shelter or nest.
Additionally, as part of the site is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), removing the larch should help to elevate this area to ‘recovering’ status as advised in the management aims.
Fortunately, there are a significant number of the native and very beneficial scot’s pine trees throughout Wyming Brook, as well as other coniferous species. Also, in the wider landscape, coniferous plantation style woodland and mixed woodland is a common habitat.
We envisage there will be considerable disruption to visitors for the duration of the works. Large forestry machines will be required to fell and extract the timber.
For safety reasons the car park and main Wyming Brook Drive/path will need to be temporarily closed to allow foresters and hauliers to operate. Other footpaths on the site may also need to be temporarily closed at various times.
The Trust recognises the nature reserve is extremely popular with visitors. We will endeavour to keep disruption at a minimum and to provide advance notice of works and closures where possible. We will endeavour to provide information on alternative recreation routes.
The main Wyming Brook Drive and car park closure will begin early 2023, with an updated schedule published on the dedicated Wyming Brook works webpage as soon as it is confirmed.
There is a section of sitka spruce and douglas fir which is going to be clear felled. This was already part of the management plan and will benefit the site as this part of the woodland is of low value to wildlife. There is already natural regeneration in this area from native tree seed, and we aim to replant this area with native broadleaf trees.
Many of the areas will regenerate naturally. This will sequester (absorb) carbon at a fast rate, quicker than an old tree.
There is a map available on the dedicated Wyming Brook works webpage, reproduced here:
For any further questions regarding these works, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0114 263 4335.
For information regarding the initial phase of works around Rivelin Dams please call Yorkshire Water on 0345 124 2424.