Although government orders are now in place banning the import of all ash trees into Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the next 48 hours will be critical for determining the extent of the ash die-back disease Chalara fraxinea.
A nationwide survey of selected woods in all 10km grid squares within Great Britain began this weekend. This was designed to give a clearer picture of the extent of this disease. This work is being carried out by staff and volunteers from various bodies including the Forestry Commission and the deadline for receipt of the results of these surveys is tomorrow evening.
So, we should, by the end of this week, have a clearer idea as to how prevalent the disease is in the wider countryside. At present we hear that there are about 82 reports of infections - the main focus (away from recently planted sites) is in Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent.
If the disease is restricted to isolated locations then, of course, through stricter biosecurity controls there is a chance to contain the disease. However, if it has spread considerably further then containment may prove to be extremely difficult.
As a major landowner ourselves, we are taking this seriously. 8,000 hectares of our 140,000 hectares of nature reserves are wooded. We have been asking all reserves (even those outside the main infection areas) to remain vigilant for signs of this disease and as a precautionary measure we will have to stop planting ash trees until further notice.
I am pleased that the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, has convened a summit to discuss the issue. We shall be there and, of course, adapt our guidance as the picture unfolds.
There are wider lessons to be learnt from the outbreak and we shall be outlining these in due course. But for now I think the focus has to be on determining the extent of the disease and the immediate steps we can take to contain it.
If you want to know more or find out how you can help, please do visit the excellent Forestry Commission website here.
Have you spotted ash die-back in your local wood?
If so the Forestry Commission needs to hear from you.
Thanks for the update - will help with presentation to RSPB local group on Thursday - look forward to further news as it develops