In 2019 Janet wrote an article for Over the Bridges about Ash Dieback. Janet has kindly allowed me to reproduce this here.
A layperson’s observations
The Forestry Commission comments that “The fungal disease, chalara fraxinea, causes leaf loss and crown dieback and it may lead to tree death.” It is predicted that the outbreak of ash dieback could cost £15 billion in Britain.
Ash trees can be seen everywhere in our valley - along the roadsides, silhouetted in the hedgerows surrounding the fields, in copses and woods.
This fine wood has traditionally been used for furniture making, as well as for manufacturing sports equipment. They make excellent wood for log fires, (‘ash wet or ash dry, is fit for a Queen to warm her slippers by’). The trees are home to a myriad tiny creepy crawlies, insects and birds, which are so essential to our healthy countryside.
Poignantly our traditional folk songs sometimes refer to the ash tree. The song “The oak and the ash” (also known as “A North Country Maid”, with possible origins in 17 century) tells the tale of a homesick young woman who remembers the North where birds sing and oak and ash trees grow. The lyrics in Rudyard Kipling’s “A tree song” mention the ash.
Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Old England to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the Sun,
Than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn.
Our local Voicemale choir sing in “Logs to Burn” about ash logs - if they come your way “buy up all, they are worth their weight in gold”.
Now there are worrying signs of ash dieback creeping relentlessly into our valley - broken, jagged limbs lying next to huge tree trunks, bunches of last year’s dried up keys hanging forlornly, ancient trees leaning precariously in the wind. Perhaps it is time to really observe these trees before they possibly vanish from our landscape, as did the elm? When you go for a walk have a closer look at the beautiful ash trees on your route. The healthy trees should be showing some green leaves in May.