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.
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.
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.