Gordon Milward, retired Downs Ranger, remembers the destruction of 750 old trees.
Dutch Elm Disease came into Britain in the early seventies. It’s a beetle that carried a fungus and the beetle feeds on the tips of the elm branches, passes the fungus into them and for a couple of years when I was working there, it wasn’t a problem, and then we started finding trees dying. It was usually in the summer, you see the first signs are the top of the tree, leaves yellowing.
I was deputy ranger then and we noticed the problem with some of the elm trees and the ranger spoke to the, the arboriculturist at Bristol, who was Max Webber at the time and asked him about it and he said, well there’s this disease that’s hitting the country, Dutch Elm Disease and when it first started they came up with some injections for trees which was quite an amazing thing they, they would do, but didn’t work. So in the end, if we saw a branch yellowing, we would go and cut the branch off, to try and save the tree but it just put the inevitable off.
In the end it was something like seven hundred and fifty trees we had to fell over the years, and we were felling five, six large trees a week. We lost some amazing trees.
During the winter we concentrated on, on tree work, so we were felling trees day after day. it was working constantly on felling trees, cutting up. The bulk of the wood had to be burned, we burnt it on site, we had massive bonfires.
Ladies’ Mile, which is an avenue of lime trees now, that was an avenue of elm trees, and actually met in the middle so it was almost like driving down a tunnel in the summer, when the, all the leaves were on the trees. Losing all those trees there’s not much you can do about it so its something people had to accept. Well, we didn’t like felling trees, but we couldn’t leave them up as dead trees, as you can’t these days because of safety reasons. But we planted, also planted a lot of trees. We planted over a thousand trees. Obviously we couldn’t replant with elm trees, so we used a lot of lime trees, beech, finished the avenue of beech trees on the Promenade.