Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Conking out - a Popular Pastime of Generations; North's Horse Chestnut Trees under Threat

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Conking out - a Popular Pastime of Generations; North's Horse Chestnut Trees under Threat

Article excerpt

Byline: Eleanor Dodd & Christopher Dean

IT has been a favourite childhood pastime for generations, but now the humble game of conkers could be under threat from a deadly disease.

Almost half the horse chestnut trees in the North East could be infected with bleeding canker, a disease which causes the bark to split and weakens the branches, according to Forestry Commission estimates.

There is no known cure, and infected trees can die within five years.

It takes 25 years for new trees to produce conkers.

Paul Mingart, who organises the Bardon Mill and Roman Empire conker festival in the Tyne Valley, Northumberland, said yesterday: "It's a big problem in this area. We have a very late harvest anyway, so have had to rely on other people collecting conkers from around the country.

"One year I had to go to Belgium to get conkers for a competition.

"There are a few alternatives, but they're not the same. Conkers are just perfect - they're the right size, they gleam, and they're easier to drill through."

Two hundred horse chestnut trees in the North East were examined by the Forestry Commission. In rural areas, 46% were infected, and 33% in urban areas.

The disease originated in the Himalayas and probably came to the UK in trees intended for planting. As a result, cases of bleeding canker have risen dramatically over the last five years.

The symptoms of the disease include mis-formed growths, cracks which ooze liquid from the trunks and branches breaking off.

Paul Manson, operations director for tree surgeons Northern Tree Contracting said: "We have seen an increase in cases in recent years.

"In the early stages, we monitor the trees and if any surgery is needed, we do that."

Roddie Burgess, head of the Forestry Commission's plant health service, said: "The spread of bleeding canker is much greater than originally thought."

Thousands of trees have already been felled across the UK for safety reasons, as weakened branches could break and fall.

In the late stages of the disease, the tree becomes covered in a red to black stain. Experts fear the disease could have as big an impact as Dutch Elm disease, which wiped out more than 25 million elm trees in Britain alone. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.