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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Ambleside holiday business takes action as ash dieback disease draws closer

A LAKELAND holiday business is taking action as the threat of ash dieback disease hitting its 130 acres of woodland draws closer.

Skelwith Fold caravan park in Ambleside will ask holiday guests to help it discover precisely what flora and fauna are at risk from the deadly fungus. The park will then be able to evaluate if the coming onslaught does result in a total wipe-out, or if, as it hopes, certain types of wildlife and plants survive by re-locating in the woodland. To help with its auditing project, Skelwith Fold plans to use the eyes and ears of visiting families next year to help identify what species are currently being supported by the threatened trees. According to Skelwith director Henry Wild, the grounds of the park contain thousands of ash specimens, which in turn play host to many types of animals, birds, insects and plants. Mr Wild, whose park recently received the David Bellamy Conservation Award at its top gold level for environmental care, said: “The biodiversity supported by ashes is absolutely staggering. “Birds such as the bullfinch feed on its seeds, and the leaves of the ash are an important food source for many types of moth including rare and endangered species. “In addition, hole nesting birds like owls and woodpeckers make the ash their home, and even snails, stag-beetles and other insects rely on the ash as a food source or a habitat.” He also points out that the carpets of bluebells admired by visitors in spring often owe their presence to ash trees and their light, open canopy which encourages a rich ground flora. Ashes support many rare woodland flowers which in turn provide nectar for a wide range of common and less familiar types of butterfly. He said: “It would be a devastating blow to Skelwith Fold if ash die-back robbed us of all these natural treasures which have co-existed with the trees here for literally centuries. “But we are not prepared just to shrug our shoulders and assume that all these species will simply vanish, which is why we are launching this audit of our present flora and fauna. “I'm hoping we'll find that not all wildlife and plants associated with ash have disappeared after the disease strikes, and that there will be evidence of their survival elsewhere in the grounds. “A park such as ours is uniquely able to mount a nature watch on such a scale because we can harness literally thousands of prospective helpers.” Holidaymakers wishing to take part will be issued with a list of flora and fauna associated with ash trees, and asked to report if and where any are spotted. These will then be compared with sightings of the same species following any disease outbreak.

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