The first nursery to spot the ash dieback disease in the UK is now spearheading a campaign to help halt its spread.
Buckingham Nurseries and Garden Centre, on Tingewick Road, Buckingham, first brought suspect ash samples to the attention of the Food and Environment Research Agency back in February.
The consignment of plants had come from a Dutch nursery the garden centre had dealt with for more than 20 years.
Buckingham Nurseries immediately quarantined the suspect samples.
In March, FERA confirmed the samples had tested positive for chalara fraxinea (ash dieback) and the nursery was advised to suspend all sales of ash imported from Europe.
Nursery general manager Mike Easom has been outspoken in questioning why Defra did not impose an immediate import ban and alert woodland owners.
No movement ban was put in place until the end of October.
But Mr Easom said it’s now important to look forward, rather than back.
The 10.9-acre nursery site has now been declared totally free of ash dieback following rigorous inspetion by FERA. Mr Easom is now urging members of the public to help prevent the spread of the fungus that has already been located in 32 woodland sites.
He said: “If you hear about something like this, there’s always a danger you feel helpless. But there is something you can do.”
Mr Easom wants people to become ‘the eyes of the Forestry Commission’ to help spot any new cases of ash dieback in the wild.
Smartphone users can download an app called Ashtag, which enables them to submit a photo of a suspect tree directly to the Forestry Commission, along with its GPS co-ordinates.
Alternatively, people can phone the Forestry Commission Plant Health Service on 0131 314 6414.
Buckingham Garden Centre is putting together an advisory leaflet for customers.