A LEADING Devon nurseryman who burned 7,000 ash saplings in a bid to help keep ash-dieback disease out of the region is calling for a greater understanding of the complex issues facing our woodlands.
Nick Davey, whose Honiton-based nursery sells about 750,000 trees a year, said: "We're burning all our stocks of ash which will really affect our business. But we decided to take the hit with no compensation because we thought it was the right thing to do for the future."
However, Mr Davey – who has more than 35 years of experience in selling trees at his Perrie Hale Forest Nursery – says both politicians and the public need to be more aware of the problems faced by the people who nurture our trees if we are to enjoy woodlands in the future.
"We supply about half a million trees a year to the Westcountry, and obviously we have been hit by ash-dieback, but I'm keen to put a more positive aspect on it," he said.
"No one is coming out of this smelling of roses, but my attitude is we've got to have a complete change in the way we think about our trees and woodlands.
"Ash-dieback has hit the news and various nurseries and other people are blaming the Government for error, but everyone involved needs to raise their game."
Defending his own industry, Mr Davey says nurseries had only been growing what the customer demanded.
"We supply a cheap product because that's what the customer wants," he said.
He said his company could only expect to receive about 25p for each young tree.
He added: "I want to raise the debate above blaming people. No one is really to blame for ash-dieback, but people need to be more aware of the woodland and stop taking trees for granted.
"Woodlands are particularly important here. They attract tourists and are good for wildlife, etc. I believe this region could lead the way and be at the forefront of new thought over our woods and forests."
Devon Wildlife Trust chief executive Harry Barton said: "There is no reason to think it will not be as bad here as it has been in Europe.
"The Government must contain this disease as much as possible. If they do, we are talking 10 to 20 per cent of trees infected, rather than 80 to 90 per cent."
So far, trees affected by ash-dieback have only been found in South East England, where the National Trust is concentrating efforts to stop the spread of infection.
It is thought that ash plants imported to the UK as far back as 2009 could carry the infection, and it is unknown where these plants ended up.
National Trust South West's plant health adviser Ian Wright said: "It is unknown whether infected plants were planted in the South West. The South West is at risk, like the rest of the UK."