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Bright Fires

Tuesday 30th October, cool air, blue sky and clear sunshine all morning, clouds bubbling up now.

'Of all the trees in England,
Her sweet three corners in,
Only the Ash, the bonnie Ash
Burns fierce while it is green.'

the quote is from Walter De La Mare's poem "Trees"

So, anyway, this is clearly my ash tree tribute entry & if you click through the image you'll hear "the ash grove" sung by the Morriston Orpheus Choir. They're singing in Welsh, naturally; which led me down another byway; more on that later. I've been fitfully struggling to follow the Ash Dieback trail since the beginning of the month: trying, futile though it may be, to figure out what the h*ll has been going on. The killer fungus can't travel; it can travel but it can't travel far. It's endemic in the UK and has been for years, it's just that diseased trees have only now reached the stage where symptoms are obvious. It's been carried from the Nordic countries where the trees are already lost by tourists (oops, I was in Denmark myself, briefly, a couple of years ago, although I never left Copenhagen. Also been to Poland); it came over the North Sea on hikers' boots, in timber. The cuts are to blame, of course (which may even be true, but doesn't explain what the Woodland Trust thought they were up to). The Labour party would have handled things very differently (a likely story, unless you mean even less convincingly). Unknown on our fortress island, except for one rogue shipment that got planted out earlier this year, but nowhere near wild woods, and anyway not a problem, and anyway swiftly and comprehensively dealt with (100,000 infected nursery saplings burned), and then five months ago, or maybe five weeks, or maybe a few days ago, it was found in ancient woodland in Norfolk and Suffolk, and who knows how many other sites are now suspected. As far as google goes, the "ash dieback" infection I followed showed all the signs of coming from a single source, so not much to be learned that way, except I did find this, a variant I've seen nowhere else (on a greenkeepers site, oddly enough): Hm. This version has a ring to it, somehow, esp given other demoralized and inadequate responses from Defra and the Forestry Commission reported and re-reported elsewhere.

I went to King Death's Garden today, to visit the weeping ash that grows over a grave there, one of my favourite trees, about 30 feet, oh, okay, about 10metres to the crown, and very beautiful. I wonder when it was planted? I have no idea. Maybe 1924, which is when Clementina Brown was buried, the last entry, so to speak, in the family grave at the tree's foot. It's in good health, as far as I could tell, but as I noted out on the Sussex Weald at the weekend (we were gathering chestnuts) it's already far too late in the season to spot a diseased tree unless the symptoms are extreme/ the observer is skilled; or both. On which grounds, I can't feel much confidence in the citizens-sightings upload project "ashtag", but there you go, there's the address anyway. Scroll down for the map. At least, so far, nobody seems to be seriously proposing the wholesale burning out of infected groves, which seemed to be the story at first. That would just be totally pointless, and horribly, actively destructive. Let the sick trees die, let the resistant trees live, and find a fungicide.

But the find a fungicide part will only happen if money is made available, and that means public protest. 80 million trees sounds impressive, momentarily. It's a catchy headline. But who will really miss them? I will. How many others? I'm afraid to many if not most "ordinary people", it's like, what's the fuss about, all these "threats to our trees" there are plenty of trees!

Ash dieback's had its five minutes, anyway. Today it's hurricane Sandy, oh, no, only a tropical storm, yes, with snow, oh, well, it happens, extreme weather. Nothing to get alarmed about.

What on earth will it take?