BOTH the recent dry spell and the ongoing problem with ash dieback, has changed the landscape this year around the Dales.

Take a look around and you will see brown hues along the roads and across fields which would have you think it is autumn, rather than early summer, with drought, late frosts and high winds being mostly responsible.

Skipton Woods, which has proved hugely popular with locals during the coronavirus lockdown hasn’t escaped the autumnal look of brown and russet hues adorning the beech trees.

Indeed whichever direction you travel in, whether along the A59 towards the Ribble Valley, the A65 heading north or heading south towards Keighley, the vista is the same, depending on the tree species.

Some trees have managed to stay quite green.

But, on top of this, attention has been brought back to a much more series and terminal problem which is affecting a different indigenous species of tree.

Ash die back is killing trees in the wood and patches of brown, dying trees have become increasingly noticeable.

In one 60 yard stretch by the footpath near The Bailey entrance to the wood, two young trees are dead, and four mature specimens and five young trees have been badly affected.

Ash dieback is a fungal disease which threatens to kill off most of the UK ash tree population.

The Woodland Trust, which manages Skipton Woods, confirmed ash dieback was killing trees and that up to a fifth of the trees in the woods were ash. However, it expected that, based on national averages, about 10 to 15 percent of Skipton Woods’ ash population would resist the disease.

Older trees tend to survive better although many do finally succumb to the infection or other diseases due to continuous exposure.

Former Craven Herald editor Ian Lockwood walks his dog in the woods almost every day and said the ash dieback was very obvious and sad.

“Suddenly, among all this greenery, you come across all these dead young trees. Even on big, mature trees, the lower branches are dead or dying,” he said. “The Woodland Trust has done such brilliant work in the woods in recent years and during the lockdown it has been much busier, so I find it really sad.”

The Trust said it would remove trees which are close to footpaths and in a poor state of health but because the whole of the woodland at Skipton is under a Tree Preservation Order, permission has to be given before any work to remove any of the trees affected.

A spokesman for the Woodland Trust said: “Each year we walk the site focussing upon those trees close to the paths and boundaries to see how the infection is progressing, this phase of work is generally undertaken between June through to late July.

“When we are looking at the trees we are looking for crown density; if the crown has a poor density we will then monitor those trees to see how and if they recover over the coming year. Once the crown shows no sign of recovery we then look at removing the tree infected, however those infected trees away from paths will not be removed as they pose little threat to public safety and offer a fantastic opportunity for wildlife.”

The spokesman added that the next step could be thinning to remove a percentage of the trees and allow the next generation chance to grow as the light levels increase to the woodland floor.

“In a woodland with a high percentage of ash we would favour other species such as oak, birch, mountain ash etc. This will encourage a more diverse tree species mix ensuring more resistance to disease in the future,” said the spokesman.

They added: “The public plays a massive role at Skipton from reporting anti-social behaviour, fallen branches, the condition of the infrastructure, walling and basically being our eyes and ears on the ground. We will be looking at thinning the woodland over the coming years so there will be opportunity to engage in replanting should there be a need. People should check out our dedicated Skipton Castle Woods facebook page (@WTSkiptonCastleWoods and also our website:

Elsewhere, across the Dales, the landscape has been taking on an autumnal hue, despite the summer only just beginning.

Where the outlooks should still be that new spring green colour, many of the trees are brown, particularly beech, oak and some sycamore.

Again, these trees tend to be in the open suggesting an atmospheric influence.

For instance, there were a few hard frosts late in spring which could have taken their toll on young growth.

The area has also suffered gales and several weeks without rainfall.

Geoff Garrett, senior trees and woodlands officer with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said: “It does appear that trees have been suffering recently.

“We have a number of oak trees in the Colvend carpark that have come into leaf and then the leaves have all died and gone brown.

“After some thought we have put it down to a number of influences all coming together.

“The first is this very dry weather that we have had. Normally trees are able to survive this sort of lack of moisture as they have an extensive root system that is able to draw water to the main body of the tree.

“Younger trees will find it more difficult.

“However I think that the main issue was the strong winds that we had a few weeks ago.

“I think that these winds desiccated the young leaves when they were still in the vulnerable growth stage. The dead leaves in the car park were very dead and disintegrated to touch.

“I have also noticed this with leaves on beech trees in Skipton Woods.

“These young leaves dried out very quickly and died but seem to remain on the tree.

“I would fully expect the trees, especially the young trees, to make a recovery by starting to produce some secondary leaf growth, known as Lammas growth, although different trees have variable success rates at this.

“Oak are good at doing this.

“It can look very autumnal but my current thoughts would be that the trees will recover and not suffer any additional long term health issues above the usual stresses that trees are dealing with.”