Cat no. 231

Watermark Disease

Running time21:38 Colour Sound 1960s Essex

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The effects Watermark disease has on willow trees.



The opening shot of this film, which concerns watermark disease that affects the willow tree, is a microphotographic shot of the bacterium 'Erwina Salicis'. This spread from the Low Countries shortly after the turn of the century. The film explains the symptoms and the effects of the disease, economically as well as horticulturally. Willow is essential to make cricket bats and grows nowhere but the South East of England. Demand exceeds supply, therefore there is a valuable export market in willow.

From a scene showing a village cricket match in Essex, the film offers a short account of the history of cricket in England. there is a still of a lithograph of Colchester Castle, showing cricket being played in the grounds back in 1791. At Kelvedon there were matches during the 19th century that featured 22 players a side. There is a shot of a poster advertising the 'local derby', schoolboys v tradesmen on 22nd September, 1868. The development of the cricket bat is illustrated by a pub sign at the 'Three Willows' at Birchanger. This shows the changing design of cricket bats from the 18th century to the modern design bat. The film also gives a brief account of the history of the willow, from the first white willow found at Lakenheath in 1780. It was sold commercially from 1820. A map of the Southeast shows Essex as one of the main production centres. The film informs that it takes 12 - 15 years for trees to mature. The commentary at this point is supported by scenes from the Essex countryside. The distinctive features of the tree are highlighted. Rooted saplings are lifted from a nursery in Suffolk. Trees are normally grown from three year old cuttings (sets). These are shown being cut in a plantation at Coggeshall in Essex. They are trimmed of side shoots and cut to 3 or 4 bat lengths. Planting, by hand or machine, is straightforward. The film shows a new plantation being planted alongside the river at Bungay. As cattle are partial to the new saplings, they are well protected with wire mesh. The film shows the felling of mature trees. They are trimmed and cut into bat length rounds. In the yard the rounds are split into six or eight and then stacked to season.

The film moves attention to the watermark disease. The various outward symptoms and the methods of transmission are described and illustrated. Methods of preventing transmission are discussed, including correct spacing and choice of site for the trees. The disease is encouraged by wet territory. The film reviews the legislative action that has been taken and shows the measures taken by Essex County Council to enforce these. This includes employing 4 full time inspectors and other staff during the summer. Field and laboratory test for the disease are shown and described.

The film also shows an old plantation being destroyed by fire. Having been neglected it had become infected and fire is the only known method of destroying the watermark Disease.

Featured People:

Richard Baker

Featured Buildings:

The Three Willows P.H., Birchanger; Colchester Castle (s)

Essex County Council, Education Committee, Visual and Aural Aids Service

Richard Baker

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