Threats and opportunities for Sidmouth Arboretum

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:49 05 November 2018

Martin with hand shears. Picture: Diana East

Martin with hand shears. Picture: Diana East

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Trees across the area are under threat from different attacks 
but there are successes as well

The library in 2018. Picture: Diana EastThe library in 2018. Picture: Diana East

Now that the autumn leaf colour has largely fallen to the ground, we are left with the tree outline, which we hope will bud and leaf up green next spring.

Yet there are all kinds of threats to our trees which Sidmouth Arboretum have to consider when planning the winter planting.

There has been a lot in the press about ash dieback (Chalara), which causes leaf loss, crown dieback and bark lesions in affected trees.

East Devon District Council tree officers confirm that the disease is active in the Sid Valley and it seems that over the next 10 years or so we will lose our ash trees, which represent 18 per cent of the leaf area in the Sid Valley (cf i-Tree survey 2014).

Graham with spindle berry. Picture: Diana EastGraham with spindle berry. Picture: Diana East

However, some ash trees appear to be able to tolerate or resist infection, and scientists are studying the genetic factors which make this possible so that tolerant ash trees can be bred for the future. (

The leaf miner, which eats into the leaves of horse chestnut, turns the leaves brown early in the autumn colour, and so each year in a small way, they weaken the tree.

More recently, one of the tree officers has reported on the fungus growing beneath a beech tree in the Byes.

He said: “This causes a severe decay of wood, resulting in little strength being left.”

Library   2013. Picture: Diana EastLibrary 2013. Picture: Diana East

As we have some magnificent beech avenues on our hillsides, that would be a tremendous loss.

Apart from pests and diseases, there is development.

There used to be five flowering cherry trees in the Mill Road car park area. Now there are three, which give a pretty display in the spring, but the roots fight for their lives amid the tarmac of their surroundings.

But let’s talk of our successes.

Mill Road car park. Picture: Diana EastMill Road car park. Picture: Diana East

The bare wall of the library offered an opportunity and the evergreen shrubs planted there, enhanced with a flowering cherry and some flowers from Sidmouth in Bloom, have created a small green oasis leading into the excellent Blackmore Gardens.

Then again, the triangle of land by the Beacon surgery and Waitrose has been planted up, with help from the Rotary Club.

There is a beech hedgerow bordering the road, and a mix of shrubs and trees on the triangle, all growing well.

The Arboretum volunteers have pruned the shrubs and cut back the weeds by hand, thus avoiding strimmer damage.

In October, the late flower and red berries against an evergreen background brightened this little used traffic island.

There is a wide choice of woody plants suitable for planting in our valley, so if you have a corner which needs some attention, we would love to brighten it up.

Come and see us on Friday, November 30, at our Celebration of Trees, Kennaway House, at 6.30pm. Free entry, bar open and lots of ideas to enhance our green environment.

To read more features from East Devon Resident, click here.

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