Springhead AshScape Project 2017
The Springhead AshScape Project will celebrate the ash tree in the Dorset and Wiltshire landscape, highlighting its plight in the face of the current epidemic of Chalara, ash dieback disease.
The project will start with a week-long ash summit during the second week of October. It will bring together some thirty tree experts from both the UK and Scandinavia to discuss what is likely to happen to the landscape when ash dieback takes hold in the western half of Britain in the next couple of years. The current prognosis is that around 90% of the 70 million ash trees in Britain will perish. The Forum will comprise a series of public lectures, discussions and field visits; the staging of a photographic exhibition and competition; and a musical processional tribute to the ‘World Tree’ – Yggdrasil from Norse mythology.
The disappearance of so many trees will have a major impact on the local landscape, and part of the continuing work to be initiated by the Project will see the creation of a photographic record, a sort of landscape AshScape Domesday Book, which will engage the public who will be able to help record the ash trees and ash woodlands in their local environments during 2017 and 2018. This will provide not only a valuable snapshot of the Dorset and Wiltshire landscape but potentially could assist in the recreation of AshScapes in the local landscape in twenty or thirty year’s time, when disease-resistant strains have been discovered. To this end, the Springhead AshScape Project will include the creation of a micro tree nursery (in association with local schools) for nurturing known resistant strains of ash and/or other indigenous trees to help repopulate woodlands and hedgerows. Our project is designed to operate as a pilot that can be replicated in other counties and other AONB’s, particularly those located in western half of the UK.
Before the local ash trees disappear from the landscape, as seems likely, the project seeks to celebrate a tree that has been so central to the culture of the Indo-European peoples for thousands of years. Because of its unique strength and impact- absorbing qualities, for over 4000 years ash was the main wood used in the manufacture of weapon and tool handles. These same qualities made ash timber ideal for the manufacture of sports equipment – a single company, the Louisville Slogger Company, claims to have made more than 50 million ash baseball bats in its 130 year history. While, nearer to home, Gore Farm Woods Limited supplies ash to Ireland for the manufacture of hurleys.
Ash timber was crucial to the development of transport, too. The wheels on the chariots found in Tutankhamen’s tomb where made from steam-bent ash, and everything from carriages, boats, sleds and even numerous aircraft parts up until the 1950’s, were made with ash. Medicines from ash trees are recorded in the ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia more than 2000 years ago, and indigenous peoples of North America used ash for constructing wigwams, baskets and also as a medicine for fevers and ear ache. Today, extracts from ash trees have been shown to have positive affects in the treatment of a number of serious conditions including Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and HIV.
It was so important as a material that ash entered the mythology of various cultures including Greek, Roman, Norse and Celt. In The Odyssey Achilles famously kills Hector with an ash spear crafted from an ancient ash tree on Mount Pelion. Zeus himself was said to have been born in a cosmic ash and fed manna – the sticky exudate that oozes from the bark of ash trees – as his first food. In Norse mythology the entirety of creation was believed to be supported on a cosmic ash called Yggdrasil and Odin, like Achilles, fought and dispensed justice with a gigantic ash spear.
AshScape Approximate Event Timetable
Tuesday 10th October
- Ash tree-themed photographic and art exhibition open to the public 10am-5pm and private view in the evening between 7pm-9pm
Wednesday 11th October
- Ancient Tree Forum Board Meeting
- Yew Tree talk by Fred Hageneder – one of the leading experts on yew trees and author of several major books on Taxus baccata – 7pm
Thursday 12th October
- Field trip to Lyscombe and Highdon to visit veteran ash trees set in a chalk downland SSSI in mid-Dorset – timings tbc.
Friday 13th October
- 11.30am – 5pm. Four speakers (to be confirmed) covering the mythology and incredible utility of ash, ash dieback in hedgerows, Scandinavian perspective on ash tree loss, etc.
Saturday 14th October
Conference with 6 speakers (tbc) and dinner, including
- Dr. Sarah Henshall of Buglife – specialist entymologist working with Defra looking at the affect of ash dieback on species dependent on ash
- Henry Kuppen – CEO/European Tree Technician, Netherlands – Ash varieties and their varying resistance to ash dieback based on extensive work on the trees of Utrecht
- Edward Parker – Trust Manager of Springhead Trust and former Project Manager of the Ancient tree Hunt and author and campaigner on ancient trees – Ash Trees, Manna From Heaven and Parkinson’s Disease.
- Tim Rowlands (TBC) – Future Forests talking about the Defra funded Living Ash Project looking into breeding genetic resistant ash trees.
Sunday 15th October
Springhead Open Garden 11.00am – 5.00pm with three musical processional events with a 15 strong adult and 60 strongchildren choir (largely from three local schools) singing specially-composed songs based around the Norse Tree of Life, Yggdrasil by Karen Wimhurst
A chance to don headphones and listen to the internal workings of a live ash tree with Adrian Newton, Professor of Ecology at Bournemouth University.
The Springhead AshScape Project is being organised by the Springhead Trust in collaboration with the Ancient Tree Forum, the Woodland Trust and the Cranborne AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).