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Posted on April 3, 2015

The ashtree growing in the corner of the garden was felled. It was lopped first. I heard the sound and looking out and seeing it maimed there came at that moment a great pang and I wished to die and not to see the inscapes of the world destroyed any more.

Gerard Manley Hopkins from Journals and Notebooks, (Excerpts)*
Split ash, CockermouthYou only need to read the first brutal sentence of this small paragraph to begin to feel a sadness. A familiar tree, seen day after day for year upon year, felled. While still growing.

Reading this short paragraph instantly brought to mind the coming decimation of the ash population in the UK. It’s true that the future can’t be predicted, and it’s not clear just how long the trees may take to die, or how many may escape the illness. In a conversation with a tree specialist last week, we heard his prediction that just 1% of the ash population will survive.

Whatever happens, the landscape will change. And with it our own inner-scapes. Last week we wrote about the invironment. Ultimately there is no separation between us as humans and the world around us, and the cycle of cause and effect is inescapable. We will feel the change in the land as the ash trees disappear – just as we will feel any change that comes about as a result of new plantings.

Trees are beacons, sentinels. They stand still through time and stand for so many of the things we value in life – health, beauty, sustainability, fresh air, and wealth (in the Ruskin sense that ‘There is no wealth but life’). And death. Little wonder that Manley Hopkins felt a deep surge of loss when he witnessed the ash’s fall.

ash dent

We will be taking an increasingly in-depth look at trees over the next two years as part of an upcoming project, but trees have always been close to our hearts. It's not the first time we've blogged about trees - previous blog posts include It's the small things and The Long View ...

*This excerpt is contained in Reliquae, an anthology edited by Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton (Corbel Stone Press) 2014

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