200 trees face the axe at Skelwith Fold

Henry Wild says his big challenge now is to remove the infected trees before Skelwith Fold re-opens in spring

By William Coleman

A deadly fungus has reared its ugly head in Ambleside and is likely to lead to the felling of 200 trees. This heartbreaking news follows monumental efforts by the team at Skelwith Fold to keep the area clean and green.

A beat the clock the challenge is in place at Skelwith Fold as the team race against time to remove 200 infected trees ahead of the site’s reopening in March next year. This is the second outbreak at the park this year, which is leading to significant changes to the landscape of the park.

Henry Wild, Skelwith’s director, has said it’s vital that these trees are removed by March 2021 as the task will negatively impact the holiday experience of those staying on the site’s 450 touring and glamping pitches.

Not only will the removal of the trees change the site’s green appeal but it will also cost the Wild family tens of thousands of pounds to have the work done, not to mention the stress and heartbreak. Add to that the loss of business during the spring and November lockdowns, and it’s clear the Wild family have had a bit of a rough time in 2020.

The Forestry Commission found the deadly tree disease, which has been identified as Phytophthoras, from the Greek for “plant destroyer”, while going over the grounds during a routine check.

“We were devasted when their tree experts found the fungus, and we must now remove up to 200 specimens in order to stop the disease spreading,” said Henry.

“The fungus spreads from tree to tree in inclement weather, so the only solution is to axe the trees surrounding those which have become infected.

“It is a gigantic and costly task for which no financial aid is available – and we can ill-afford to sustain any more losses by not being ready to re-open in spring.”

Not being one to let a hard time get him down, Henry is determined to turn this grim saga around and have a positive outcome once all is said and done. He will be examining new ways to redevelop and restore the woodland to ensure it lasts for future generations.

“We are especially mindful of the wide variety of wildlife which this environment sustains, including the red squirrel colony we have been fostering for almost 25 years,” he said.

“The wellbeing of our wildlife is inexorably linked to the maintenance of a strong and healthy tree population, so that outcome will be our main priority.

“It’s ironic that we should be hit by two disease disasters in one year, but future prospects for tourism in Cumbria are excellent, and we want to be there for it!”

The Wild family’s care of the natural world and their many wildlife-friendly projects have this year won them the prestigious David Bellamy Conservation Award at its top gold level.

You can watch a video describing the tree felling task which lies ahead, narrated by Henry Wild, on YouTube now.