I read in today's Times that the Chalara Fraxinia fungus, which has wiped out 90% of Denmark's ash trees, and is widespread across a lot of Central Europe, has reached our British woodland.
And I am taken back to the mid-1970's when Dutch Elm Disease more or less wiped out our beautiful English elm trees. At the time I lived in the Midlands in a house which was built on what had been woodland and as a result we had three old elm trees at the bottom of our garden. I remember watching them anxiously for the first signs of the disease and finally one morning seeing that the leaves were dying and beginning to drop although it was only early Summer. We had to have all three felled. It was such a sad day. Now it seems as though it might happen all over again.
Ash is such a quintessentially English tree. Years ago they were such useful trees for the farmer to have on his land. They made splendid fencing posts and cart shafts and could be used for all kinds of repair jobs around the farm. They also burn well on the fire. Now on farm land they just stand proud. The farmer has no use for cart shafts and buys his fencing posts ready tannelised. He might use the odd branch for firewood - but other than that they are just roosts for birds.
But that doesn't stop the ash being an important aspect of the country scene. If the disease spreads to our area we would lose about eighty percent of the trees on our lane and farm. There are old ash trees standing in the hedgerows and there are saplings which have seeded themselves in the hedges. These are cut back every year but by the end of the Summer they have risen up again. They look so hardy and unstoppable.
Some of our ash trees are festooned with ash key seeds, other trees are bare and seem to be sterile. Some drop their leaves early and some hang on to them until the first frosts. All make a terrible mess when their leaves fall. But I forgive them that when I see their Winter branches full of rooks on a Winter's morning.
I would miss them terribly. The Woodland Trust is trying to stop the disease from spreading and becoming established by supporting a ban on importing and moving ash trees. I cannot understand why we should have to import them when we have so many here already. Does anyone reading this know? Is ash still used extensively in furniture making for instance?
When I think of all the thousands of ash tree seedlings which emerge in our fields every Spring and which just disappear by being eaten off by cattle and sheep or trampled down - I think surely we don't need to import ash.
On a different theme - thank you to all those who wrote with suggestions for improving my piece for my writing group. I have taken your suggestions to heart and have altered the piece. The new version is yesterday's post if you want to see what I have done to it. Thanks particularly to AJ, Gwil and Seeking Center.
But then I wouldn't have thought we would have had to import Brussels Sprouts - a commonly grown English vegetable at this time of the year - but when I got mine home from Tesco yesterday and opened the pack to cook some for lunch, I saw that they came from Holland. Has the world gone mad?