Ashes to Ash

Ever since the arrival of ash dieback in the UK in 2012 I had been dreading seeing the first signs of it around my home. In the four years it took to see an infected tree for the first time – on the Pen, the village green across the road from my house – I had savoured every ash tree I passed; their silvery starkness in spring after everything else around them was greening, the billowing featheriness in high summer, their unripe-lime green surrender in autumn, their upward-curling, black-budded gracefulness against winter twilights.

Ash near East Shaw Farm, above Gayle, Wensleydale, November 2015.

Now it is rare to see an uninfected tree. Shamefully, I often avert my eyes. It is just too painful that we are going to lose them. In the Upper Calder Valley of West Yorkshire, where I live, they are not a prominent feature of the landscape, though there are some magnificent individuals.

Ash above the Rochdale Canal, Upper Calder Valley, July 2017.

In other landscapes, especially the Yorkshire Dales, their disappearance will be devastating; it is difficult to contemplate Ribblesdale or the area around Malham without them. There is little consolation and nothing that can compensate for this impending loss.

Ash tree in near Malham, Yorkshire Dales
Ash near Malham, Yorkshire Dales, August 2017.

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