A GROUP of volunteers planted Dutch elm disease resistance saplings in a once neglected graveyard, thanks to a new initiative supported by Hampshire County Council.

The Friends of St Giles Hill Graveyard planted three resistant elms, two Lutece and one Ademuz, after an elm expert visited Winchester last year and advised the group on what to grow.

The saplings, in the graveyard off Alresford Road in Winchester, should be flowering in six to eight years and are the first Dutch elm disease-resistant trees to be planted in the graveyard.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Planting the saplingsPlanting the saplings (Image: Anna Stewart)

The Hampshire Forest Partnership with the support of The Tree Council is funding disease-resistant hybrid elm trees to help nature recovery. Projects must be able to allow the trees to grow to full size and the county council scheme is particularly interested in seeing them back in community spaces.

Since the 1960s, elm trees across England have been destroyed by Dutch elm disease which was accidentally introduced to Europe in the early 20th century. The disease has killed nearly all the mature elms in Britain, which is approximately 60 to 100m trees.

Anna Stewart, one of the Friends of St Giles Hill Graveyard, said: “The St Giles Hill Graveyard is small and was much neglected for 70 years. Our group has been taking care of this hidden treasure for the last seven years. 

“We are fully constituted, have seven trustees and have volunteers from the local community. Work days are once a month and we always have coffee, biscuits and chat.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Hard at workHard at work (Image: Anna Stewart)

“We hope the rare White Letter Hairstreak butterfly will colonise the elms. Funds were provided by Catherine and Jon Ferrier. Winchester College is to be congratulated on planting the first Dutch elm disease-resistant elm saplings last year.

“At this point in time, there are no mature elms resistant to Dutch elm disease in the Winchester area. The disease will return and take out any non-resistant elm trees.

“Hampshire Forest Partnership is giving away free resistant elm and this great way for local communities, landowners and Winchester City Council to give a much-needed boost to biodiversity as well as bringing back elm to our landscape.”

The three resistant trees were planted on Saturday, February 3. For more information on the Hampshire Forest Partnership scheme go to hants.gov.uk/hampshireforestpartnership/news/funding-schemes.