Craig Ruddick, Arboricultural Manager, LB Richmond

Brighton Elm Study Day by Craig Ruddick, Arboricultural Manager, LB Richmond

In July over sixty delegates from both the London Tree Officer Association (LTOA) and Arboricultural Association took the trip to Brighton to take part in an elmstudy day.  The day provided a fantastic opportunity to not only see the prized National Elm Collection but to also hear from the people who were responsible for safeguarding Brighton’s elms and from those that are continuing to do so. The event was sponsored by David Archer Associates.

The morning session was opened by Rob Walker, Brighton & Hove Parks Manager.  This session contained a series of presentations, the first by Rob Greenland, former Arboricultural Manager at Brighton & Hove.  Rob gave a history of elm in Brighton, explaining they were selected by the Victorians due to tolerance of salty winds and ability to thrive in chalky soils.  Rob spoke of his experience of managing Dutch elm disease (DED) since the 1970s and how Brighton’s geographical positioning on the south coast created an environment where it was possible (with the cooperation of neighbouring land managers) to create an effective buffer and implement a programme of sanitation tree works including tree pruning, removal and root severance of DED-affected trees to prevent the devastation that was seen throughout the rest of the country.

Alistair Peters has worked to manage DED in both public and private properties and his presentation focused on the fundamental reasons that the city was successful in protecting its elm trees. Alastair spoke of the critical involvement of Ray Evison (former Parks Director) and the importance of community involvement in forming the ‘save the elms’ campaign.  This presentation included the important message that education, community involvement and action at Council level can bring about ownership amongst the public, forming a grass roots action group that achieved remarkable success in protecting the elms. A resounding quote from this presentation was that during the era of ‘save the elms’ the average eight year old was able to talk confidently about DED.

Peter Bourne, who works with the City Council to catalogue the elm collection, gave a detailed and comprehensive presentation which highlighted the many species and cultivar of elm that are present within Brighton and Hove.  Peter spoke about methods of identifying elm from visual signs through to genetic analysis and demonstrated a detailed inventory.

The final presentation saw Jim Hillier of Hillier Nurseries talk about the merits of planting the DED-resistant Ulmus ‘New Horizon’ and  highlighted several urban planting schemes where ‘New Horizon’ had been used to good effect.

In the afternoon the group headed to Preston Park to take part in a walk that was led by Rob Greenland, firstly to see the magnificent Preston Park Twins, two elms that are thought to be the oldest and largest in Europe.  The tour of the park allowed the group to view various different elm species and included the opportunity to see DED management in action where a mature specimen had been ring barked to prevent the spread of the disease through root passage. This management also included trenching to sever links with adjacent trees to further minimise the chance of spread.

The elm study day was enjoyed by all who attended and we would like to thank the people that presented; they shared experience and management practices that are entirely relevant in an era where the arrival of new tree pests and diseases is exponential.

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