Juniper disease affects public access in Upper Teesdale

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We are sorry to learn of the outbreak of a deadly disease to junipers, caused by a pathogen which has recently been discovered in the junipers of Upper Teesdale. Some of the area is open access land, which has been temporarily closed.

Our local correspondent for County Durham, Jo Bird, tell us that this is still being investigated and the results of various tests are awaited. Until more is known about the disease no one is prepared to say how long the restriction might be in place.

The Pennine Way runs through the restricted area, but remains open, with footbaths and brushes to clean boots at each end, one of which is very close to High Force. The only other affected footpath is a short and relatively little-used path, Holwick FP8, which goes straight through the worst affected area. It runs from Heild House (an isolated farm) WSW to BW5.  (You can see it on the map just north of the little oblong non-access land block isolated in the access land.) It is not being diverted, but a permissive path is being waymarked on the recommended temporary route.

Says Jo: ‘The junipers are a feature of the Upper Teesdale landscape and it would be very sad if they were wiped out. Juniper does not regenerate quickly and this may have been exacerbated in the past by overgrazing of sheep and by rabbits, both taking out young plants. In recent years efforts have been made by Natural England to replant using seed picked by volunteers (I’m one of them) which are sent away to be propagated and returned as two-year-old saplings for planting with protective guards. It would be a great pity if all that effort has been wasted. The measures taken to restrict access are minimal and sensible.’

For more information, visit the Forestry Commission website here or The Food & Environment Research Agency here.

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