Environment Secretary Owen Paterson admits it is impossible to wipe it out now that it has been found in mature trees but insists the British ash can still be saved. “We now have a window of opportunity for action because the disease only spreads in the summer.”

Cases have been reported in Sussex, Berkshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Northumberland, Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent and Essex.

Other countries including France and Belgium have already been hit hard by the disease but Denmark has been the worst affected – losing 90% of its ash population.

A view of ash saplings, some of which are infected with ash dieback disease at Arger Fen near Sudbury in Suffolk
Some of these ash saplings in Suffolk are infected with the disease