I recently helped run a tree disease identification day on behalf of OPAL (the Open Air Laboratory). The day had been organised by the Caradon Hill Area Heritage Project and twenty people came along to the hall next to St Cleer Church.
The morning session started with a fascinating talk given by Tim Kellett of the Cornish Ancient Tree Forum. Tim is a volunteer recorder for the forum and has an amazing knowledge of all the ancient and veteran
Golitha Beech Copyright Martin Bodman
trees across the county. My own talk followed the OPAL guidelines (drawn up by Imperial College London), which introduces the general public to tree pathology and the reasons for the growing number of pests and diseases on trees in the UK. We looked at a number of the most common problems and what to look out for in the future. The audience where particularly concerned about the likely impact of Ash Dieback in Cornwall and what can be done to reduce its spread.
In the afternoon we planned to look at a range of common tree problems and attempt to fill in some of the OPAL survey sheets. We finally got all the team over to the woods at Golitha Falls, two miles up the road. The woods include areas of young and old oak coppice and an area of old beech trees along the edge of the river Fowey. We barely had time to look at a magnificent beech tree which had recently lost a large lower limb, when the rain started. After 10 minutes it was pouring down and before long the car park was starting to flood. We sadly had to abandon the field meeting and make our way back to St Cleer where it was still dry!
If you get a chance to go to an OPAL meeting do support it. There are a growing number of informed and concerned disease spotters out there, and we will need as many of them as we can. Find out more about OPAL at www.opalexplorenature.org, which organises a range of wildlife survey and monitoring projects with volunteer groups right across the country.