Ash trees felled as part of a forestry management project carried out on the Bradford Estates, on the Shropshire and Staffordshire borders, are to be turned into sticks for the Irish sport of hurling.
Ash woodland at Weston Mill, off Mill Lane, has been removed as part of a drive to prevent the spread of a killer fungus, with willow trees to be planted in their place.
The felled trees will be used by a Republic of Ireland-based manufacturer of hurley sticks, which are shaped by traditional craft skills from ash wood to be used by players in the Irish sports of hurling and camogie.
The trees have been felled to prevent the spread of ash dieback, a fungus which originated in Asia and has gone on to devastate European ash trees.
Conservationists see willow trees as a strong species to plant to help woodland recover from the loss of ash. In time, Bradford Estates hope the willows planted will go on to be used in the manufacturing of cricket bats.
Managing Director Alexander Newport said Bradford Estates was taking the steps as part of its 100 year plan to shape its future around responsible practices. He said: “We took the pre-emptive decision to remove these trees, which we believe are around 60 years old because of the risk from ash dieback.
“Hurling sticks are made from a certain quality of ash wood so it is pleasing to see our trees will go on to have another life in this traditional Irish sport. Over time, we hope the new willows at Weston Mill could be used for cricket bats, which will keep the sporting connection going.”
Llandrindod Wells-based chartered foresters and surveyors Bronwin & Abbey are overseeing the project. Robert South, Operations Director, said: “The project at Weston Mill will see the historic hydrology repaired and reinstated with the aim of reducing flooding. The site will be replanted at a lower density of trees producing a quality crop for the future.
“As the ash trees continue to decline in health and usually become affected by other infections, such as honey fungus, the usability of the timber declines and the safety issues of working the crop increase. The safety issues are very prominent and a cause of significant concern as the trees decline so targeting the ash element of the woodlands is an effective pre-emptive approach.”
With woodlands covering 500 hectares (1,235 acres) in the rolling countryside of Shropshire and Staffordshire, as proud custodians of an area of great natural beauty, Bradford Estates look after their woods through techniques that promote landscape, diversity and growth.