FOR hundreds of years it has boasted an ash tree on a spot claimed by many to mark the very centre of Yorkshire.

But now, villagers in Barkston Ash, near Tadcaster, fear their most famous feature could be lost, as a devastating disease sweeps across the country.

Residents in the village, which takes its name from the ash tree marking the entrance to the village and which has a pub called the Ash Tree, are keeping an eye on the spread of ash dieback disease, which is threatening ash trees across the UK.

The fungal infection has seen more than 100,000 trees destroyed over the past six weeks and experts have said it may be too late to stop its spread.

Guy Woolley, former parish councillor in Barkston Ash, said the ash tree which had stood in the village for about 150 years, had been replaced with a new one following some debate about five years ago.

But he said it was hoped the tree would live to be the same age as its predecessor. Mr Woolley said: “I think it’s a big concern.

“We hope it won’t come here but I’m sure there will be an outcry if it does. It’s something the parish council I’m sure will be keeping an eye on. It’s the emblem of the village.

“Our experience is the tree is significant for the village. It forms the name of the village. When we replaced it there was quite strong feeling about it.”

Mr Woolley said the tree had great historical significance and said the seniors of Barkston Ash used to meet under the tree.

While the honour of which village marks the very centre of Yorkshire has traditionally been claimed by Barkston Ash, controversy was sparked earlier this year when the Ordnance Survey used its detailed records of the county’s boundary and the help of a computer programme to come up with a field in the village of Hessay as the centre of Yorkshire.

Yesterday it was reported that ash dieback disease – which is easily spread – had been confirmed in Richmond, North Yorkshire. There have also been confirmed cases in South Yorkshire.

The fungal infection has already killed about 90 per cent of ash trees in Denmark.