WOODLAND popular with walkers is to be closed for several months as trees infected with a dangerous disease are chopped down.

The affected trees, and a buffer zone around them at Walker Fold Wood, within the Smithills estate, must be felled by law.

Several trees have become infected by phytophthora ramorum.

Staff from the Woodland Trust are starting a 10-month project of felling works, which will lead to an exclusion area at the wood and the closure of footpaths.

In a statement, The Woodland Trust said they had no choice to act once the disease had been identified in the trees.

A spokesman said: “Felling diseased trees is a key factor in preventing the spread to other woodlands.

“As a result there will be an exclusion zone around Walker Fold Wood, with some of our popular footpaths closed.

“Infected areas are given a statutory plant health notice by Forestry England which require felling to take place within a time frame.

“We will be removing larch and Sitka spruce under the notice, but all other tree species will not be removed.”

The statement added that visitors will not be able to access Walker Fold woods during the work.

The trust also said that they would be using horses as part of the felling project.

They said: “We will be using methods we consider to be the most sensitive to help regenerate the woodland after felling is finished.

“This will include horse logging, so visitors may see horses in the area.

“The wood will look different as a result and there will be noise while felling is happening.”

There is also an outline plan to restock the wood.

Native broad leaf species will be used, which the trust say will take the wood back to the species mix it had prior to it being felled fora conifer plantation around 100 years ago.

The trust added: “This should improve biodiversity too and we will be sowing wildflower seeds to create ‘a forest of flowers’.

“We will be monitoring the changes in plant diversity as the plan progresses and those interested will be able to follow this with us on social media.”