Heartwood’s training schedule is rapidly becoming as full as its felling season. The latest event, part of a summer season of courses designed to broaden the group’s expertise and skills base, was a day-long course with Dr. Charles Lane, Consultant Plant Pathologist with FERA and lead organiser in the EU Life-Funded citizen science project ObservaTree.

The tree health course began at the YHA in Moira where attendees were introduced to the basics of tree health and its impacts upon woodland environments. The group were taught how to recognise the signs and symptoms of trees under stress and to evaluate trees in context to determine whether disease was likely to be present or whether other stresses such as compaction, spray drift or mechanical damage were the cause of ill health.

Participants quite quickly learned to identify a stressed or diseased tree and learned, in principle, how to spot several of the most common pests and diseases currently threatening the UK’s trees.Charles then moved on to emphasise the role of biosecurity in helping to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases such as phytophera and other fungal disease.

After lunch the group moved to Donisthorpe Community Woodland in the company of Leicestershire County Council Ranger, Chris Conway, to put what they had learned into practice. Armed with this new knowledge group members successfully identified cases of some of the most common diseases including chalara (ash die-back) and dothistroma (red band needle blight).