A HOLIDAY park has been faced with the heart-breaking decision to axe hundreds of trees in a race against time to prevent the spread of a deadly disease.

Skelwith Fold caravan park in Ambleside is battling to fell up to 200 trees in its grounds this winter, after the fatal Phytophthoras plant disease, from the Greek for ‘plant destroyer’ was found for the second time this year on the park by the Forestry Commission.

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, which will see some 50-foot-tall larches dating from the 19th century axed, will leave the family with a bill totalling tens of thousands of pounds.

"We were devastated when 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 Mr Wild.

"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.”

But Mr Wild 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 Mr Wild.