Forestry Commission logo

Tree felling at Abbeyford Woods to combat disease

This news story is now over a year old and information may no longer be accurate or up-to-date. It might also contain obsolete links.
Please use our search link on the left to look for more recent information.
Dieback of Japanese larch caused by Phytophthora ramorum

Tree felling will start in September in Abbeyford Woods, near Okehampton.

About 35 hectares of larch and sweet chestnut trees in a 94-hectare area of the woodland will need to be felled to control an outbreak of Ramorum disease, caused by a fungus-like organism called Phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum). Cutting down the infected trees is the only way to limit spread of the disease to other trees and plants.

Areas of Abbeyford Woods will be closed to visitors during the felling programme, but efforts will be made to ensure that as many parts of the woods as possible remain open to visitors.

For their safety, visitors are asked to pay close attention to signage on site and not try to access areas where felling is in progress. They are also asked to help limit the spread of the disease by brushing soil and leaf material off their boots, clothes, bikes, baby buggies, wheelchairs and dogs etc before leaving the forest, and washing them at home before visiting another woodland, park or garden.

Mark Tansley, North Devon area forester, said:

“It is always a shame to have to fell trees before they reach maturity. However, since Ramorum disease was first observed affecting larch trees, in the South West in 2009, our control strategy has proved successful in slowing its spread.  Statistics from the end of last year show that of the 134,000 hectares of larch woodland across Great Britain in 2009, only 13% have had to be felled. The losses would have been much higher if we hadn’t managed the disease in this way.

“The felling will undoubtedly change the landscape of the area, but we will be replanting and encouraging the natural regeneration of native broadleaved trees, which links in with our long-term plan of restoring the former ancient woodland site.

“We ask visitors to be patient while the work is carried out. Areas of the woods will be temporarily restricted for safety reasons, and people will notice a small increase in the number of lorry movements in the area.

“Once work begins, I’d ask all visitors to use the temporary car park which we will be creating soon in Sprinetts Wood, opposite the existing car park. If anyone has any queries they are welcome to contact me on”

More information about P. ramorum and other tree health issues can be found on the Forestry Commission website at

Notes to Editor

  1. The total area of Abbeyford Woods is about 152 hectares.
  2. The Phytophthora ramorum organism is thought to be of Asian origin and accidentally introduced to Britain in the international trade in live plants. It can affect more than 150 species of plants, including trees, and was first identified in Britain in 2002. It has affected a range of plants in Britain, including popular garden plants such as rhododendron, viburnum and camellia, the ecologically important bilberry, and larch and sweet chestnut trees.
  3. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment.  Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands.

Media contact:; 0300 067 5824