THREATS to Britain’s forests were the central topic as a pests and diseases professional training day came to Redditch.

More than 60 workers who look after trees including some from as far afield as Oxford gathered at Redditch Town Hall on Thursday, May 1, for the latest news and advice from experts at the Forestry Commission and the Arboricultural Association.

The Midlands had been set to miss out on the national advice sessions when Redditch Council – which manages extensive woodlands in the town – invited the agencies to hold an extra event in the town.

The sessions in the council chamber covered how to prevent, spot and manage diseases such as ash dieback, acute oak decline and chestnut blight, as well as pests such as the oak processionary moth and long horn beetles.

A new national campaign to enable members of the public to help nip problems in the bud by recognising and reporting tree problems was also explained. The Woodland Trust’s ‘Observatree’ scheme encourages people to become tree health champions, and provides a new Tree Alert website and smartphone app for directly reporting problems.

British biosecurity was another hot topic as experts warned that trees sold as ‘native’ may only be grown from native seeds, but actually brought on overseas and then imported, sometimes from heavily disease-affected nations.

The council’s head of environmental services, Guy Revans, said: “We are delighted that the national agencies accepted our offer to come to Redditch. As a result, all our tree officers and tree surgeons are now armed with the latest information and advice as they go about looking after our woodlands. We couldn’t have sent everyone to other courses so it’s great that they came to us, and people came from all across the region too.”