Funny how you forget. October 2012 and the media was in full flow over the threat of Ash dieback. ‘100,000 trees to be destroyed’, ‘Nation’s 80 million ash trees under threat’ the headlines shouted.

So out in the forest the following spring we anxiously scanned the trees for signs of dieback, images of swathes of trees dead and dying in our minds. But no, the trees were alive. 2014 and our green and pleasant land still looked…. green. So was all it all over? Could we stop worrying? Clearly the answer was no. We’re in 2015 and it’s here now.

In many of the woods we manage across Sussex and Surrey we see signs of dieback. The phoney war is over, we’re seeing it for real and we know it’s not going to be over by Christmas.

Initially confined to East Anglia and Kent, Chalara fraxinea to use dieback’s correct name, has been identified as far west as Cornwall and up to Northumberland. I now do believe the headline ‘Millions of Trees to Die from Immigrant Fungus" and I don’t even work for the Daily Mail.

Land managers can act to slow the spread but not stop it, so our landscape will undergo a dramatic change over coming decades. Trials are underway to identify resistant genetic strains and there is a hope that the genetic diversity of British ash is wide enough to avoid a Dutch elm-scale catastrophe. However we must face the reality that millions of cubic metres of ash are likely to be felled over the next twenty years, or just left to decay.

Ash is a beautiful internal joinery timber. But it is not durable outside and the standing timber is the same. Once infected the tree needs to be processed within a season or two before discolouration and then rot sets in.

We cut a whole six lorry loads this winter, some beautiful logs, into 27,34,41,54,80 and 100mm sizes. Our artisan customers love the grain, workability and widths they can get. Others in the hardwood trade will also have laid down some stock, perhaps if we added all our production together we might get to 3,000m3 of round logs. But this is just a drop in the ocean compared to the tsunami of volume coming our way because of dieback.

So what are we going to do with all this timber? One prospect is substituting American ash, which is, of course beset by its own huge threat in the form of the Emerald Ash Borer beetle. But who has the capacity to process and dry it quickly and can our larger merchants be persuaded to stock an English ash product to replace American?

We are also looking at other solutions. Through Innovate UK funding, English Woodlands Timber is leading a research team to focus on improving supply of British hardwoods into UK construction. This will include development of an online search portal to enable buyers across the supply chain to _ nd the timber they require and we’ll report on progress in a year.

So while Ash dieback is serious, it could present opportunities too.

I can just see that headline now: "UK timber industry comes together to back homegrown Ash".