The forest of Gribskov is magnificent in autumn, its foliage a glorious tapestry of red, gold and yellow.It is Denmark’s biggest, a former royal hunting ground north of Copenhagen full of squirrels, deer and birds.Many insects live only on ash trees, and because the leaves are the last to come out in spring, ash woodland floor gets sunlight, so carpets of spring flowers that are found nowhere else can flourish.
She is speaking from experience, after watching thousands of trees sicken and die in the past ten years.Like the rest of Denmark’s foresters, scientists and countryside lovers she has gone through stages of denial, anger and finally acceptance. What has happened in Gribskov, and hundreds of forests throughout Denmark, Germany, and Eastern Europe, is almost certainly what will soon happen in Britain. Mature trees hang on for longer, lingering for years sometimes as the fungus slowly kills them, spreading into the wood after it gets into the leaves.A curious symptom is the hundreds of new twigs that sprout vertically from boughs.Scientists think they are an attempt by the ash to produce healthy growth once the main body of the tree is infected.“We can’t see any point burning the trees, and you can’t burn the air,” Mrs Olrik, 40, added.
The ash is common in Denmark, as it is in Britain, making up about 15 per cent of deciduous trees, often planted in towns and villages.
“Children sing songs about the ash in school,” Mrs Olrik says.
“And according to the old stories, when the ash trees die, chaos follows.” The effect on wildlife is expected to be serious, and in some cases disastrous.
The fungus has been a disaster for Denmark’s foresters, wiping out the most valuable timber they grow.
The Danish Forest Association believes it has cost their members around £30 million.
Anders Grube, 53, believes 250 acres of trees have been lost in the 10,600 acre forest he manages a couple of hours drive south of Gribskov.