Bike riders urged to wash tyres to halt tree infection
BIKE riders have been warned to wash and disinfect their tyres and footwear following a spate of infected trees.
Hundreds of acres of ancient forest in Wales is infected with Phytophthora ramorum – the same disease that has wiped out thousands of larch trees in the Forest of Dean.
Although it has not spread over the border in Gloucestershire this time, bikers have been warned to keep tyres clean to avoid further contamination.
Frances Raymond-Barker, the Forestry Commission's planning forester for the area, said: "What is going on in Wales is a different kettle of fish, but bikers should be vigilant. We need to ensure that contamination is kept to a minimum so our trees do not get infected.
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"When bikers have gone to a different area they should always wash and disinfect their footwear and tyres. If people spot a sick looking tree they should report it."
In 2012 tens of thousands of trees in the Forest of Dean were felled, following an outbreak of the same disease.
However this year is looking much more positive for the woodlands.
The Forestry Commission conducted an airborne survey, which is the most effective way of identifying infected sites. They were carried out during spring.
The results showed very little trees infected this year, with only 11 per cent of larch trees felled.
Frances added: "This year is looking positive because we did the felling and the tests at the right time. The airborne surveys this year have shown that our trees have been minimally affected. The results of those trees which have come back negative were tested further as suspected sites, but later came back positive, which means they are not affected.
"Such disease as Phytophthora can spread if weather conditions are wet and windy, which produces a lot of fungus."
Frances added the spread of the disease to the area this year was prevented because felling was completed under statutory notices supplied last spring at the right time.
Those who hire bikes in the Forest have been advised to return bikes washed.
James Lingham of Pedalabikeaway cycle hire, near Coleford, said: "We always encourage people to wash the tyres. Here we have a wash facility where customers can pay a £1 to wash the bike.
"To encourage them to do this process we recently gave them facility for just 50p."
Bob Jenkins is one of the Forest of Dean's Verderers – an ancient role charged with upholding Forest law. He said he was happy with the way the Forestry Commission for the area had dealt with the situation.
He said: "They do a great job.
"If we can't rely on them, who else could we rely on?"