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Holiday park’s double whammy as 200 trees face the axe

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

The family owners of an Ambleside holiday park have begun a race against time after suffering their second blow this year from a deadly disease.

Skelwith Fold caravan park is battling to fell up to 200 trees in its grounds this winter after a fatal plant disease was recently found on the park.

Director Henry Wild said it is vital that the task is completed by next March when Skelwith Fold will re-open its 450 holiday caravan and glamping pitches to guests.

The felling will leave the Wild family with a bill totalling tens of thousands of pounds – on top of the losses the business suffered during the spring and November lockdowns.

The discovery of the deadly disease was made by the Forestry Commission, and identified as Phytophthoras, from the Greek for “plant destroyer”.

“We were devastated when their tree experts found the fungus, and we must now remove up to 200 specimens of mainly larch 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.

“But the job is being made even more challenging by the shorter working days of winter, and the need for the forestry workers to observe Covid safety measures,” he said.

But Henry is determined that the grim saga should have a positive outcome, and is examining new ways to restore the woodland 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.

“We will be recycling as much of the felled timber as possible, but it has virtually no resale value as the fungus has resulted in a glut of supply into the market.

“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!” added Henry.

Skelwith Fold’s 130 acres were laid out in Victorian times as the grounds of a country house, and many of the larches – some over 50-foot tall – date from that time.

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

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