Battle to save historic tree in the centre of Hailsham

A historic tree in the centre of Hailsham is suffering from an aggressive form of fungus and must be cut back or it will be lost entirely, according to the council.

Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 4:39 pm

The mature Horse Chestnut, believed to be around 200-years-old, is suffering from brittle cinder.

It was also found to have dead tissue present on its stem caused by another common infection, known as bleeding canker of horse chestnut.

Wealden District Council has said it’s been advised by experts that the overall size of the tree must be reduced – or it will be lost entirely.

Emergency tree surgery. Hailsham's beloved horse chestnut, believed to be around 200-years-old, is suffering from an aggressive fungus known as brittle cinder. SUS-211011-160558004

Council leader Bob Standley said, “This is a well-loved tree among the people of Hailsham and an important and valuable part of the town’s heritage.

“Rather than do nothing, the council has used modern decay detection systems and we are now in a position to carry out the remedial works to retain the tree.

“This will maintain the longevity of the tree as opposed to condemning it and eventually having to remove it.

“We are hoping when the remedial works get underway, any disruption to pedestrians and motorists will be kept to a minimum and apologise in advance for any inconvenience.”

The tree crown will be sensitively reduced using professional practice methods in the coming weeks, with the council saying it is likely the area around the tree will be cordoned off while the works are ongoing.

Brittle cinder is a disease that frequently affects British trees due to the moisture in the atmosphere.

If left untreated it can quickly infect other nearby plants, including other types of trees like oak and maple.

The disease can cause soft rot, a process where the fungus digests and rots moist wood, which leads to the otherwise healthy host dying.

The other infection the beloved tree has, bleeding canker of horse chestnut, is also very common. It has run rampant in western Europe in recent years thought to be caused by wind swept rain spreading the pathogen.

The Horse Chestnut tree is hugely important to Britain’s ecosystem and economy. It is estimated that there are 470,000 such trees in the country, with many in urban areas.

It contains aescin which can be used for its anti-inflammatory properties, and wildlife also benefit from the nuts the tree provides.