A SURVEY across Hampshire has shown the county is currently free of the ash tree disease.

Ash dieback disease is now established in East Anglia and there have also been confirmed cases in Berkshire and Kent, sparking huge concern nationally that millions of trees are at risk.

A national survey earlier this month overseen by the Forestry Commission found no cases in Hampshire.

Hampshire is one of the most wooded counties in southern England with the New Forest and swathes of trees in the South Downs National Park east of Winchester. The national park is 23 per cent wooded (some 38,000 hectares).

Fortunately in Hampshire beech is predominant as the underlying rock is mainly chalk. Ash’s importance is that it is a pioneer species – the first to colonise a clearing – but in Hampshire it tends to be scattered so its loss would not devastate the landscape in the same way that Dutch Elm Disease did in the 1960s and 70s.