Dedication of one man can give us hope for the future

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Time and time again, we’ve let nature take its course.

But today we learn of another option that involves intervening in an entirely natural way.

Yes, it’s very important that nature is allowed to go its own way. But we know that the implications can be devastating, even deadly.

When Dutch elm disease struck in the 1970s, it wiped out the vast majority of this stately and magnificent species for good.

The impact was so great that many people will never have seen a landscape made up of elms.

That’s a great shame. But thanks to the dedication of one man, we should once again be able to see elms in the areas around Chichester Harbour.

Richard Smith has poured his time, energy and devotion into growing saplings from cuttings taken from the handful of mature elms that did manage to survive in this area.

Now 12 of those saplings have been planted by staff and volunteers from the Chichester Harbour Conservancy.

It’s hoped that these saplings will be resistant to the fungal disease and grow into tall beauties for all to enjoy in the future.

Only time will tell if these saplings can survive.

But it will be a great achievement if they do – and signify hope for the future of the white-letter hairstreak butterfly, which relies on these trees for food.

Volunteers will now care for the young elms, recording changes, including signs of the disease.

This is a great scheme and all those involved deserve praise for giving up their time to make it happen.

Mother Nature is certainly a powerful force – the way that Dutch elm disease took out the trees in the first place shows the havoc she can wreak.

The Great Storm of 1987 swept a similar path of destruction through the south.

It changed the face of our landscape for good in the space of just a few short hours.

But now here’s a chance to put right what happened to our elms for the future.

We sincerely hope that the trees so loved by our landscape artists of the past can return – for good.

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