A Woodland Journeyman mini series: Ash Dieback #2

In part four of this Woodland Journeyman mini series, Jon shares some hope in the fight against Ash Dieback and a beautiful poem by Susanna Moodie

View from inside a coppiced Ash Stool - the stems are roughly 40 years old but the root system is near 200 years old possibly older by Jon Jewett

Woodland Journeyman, Jon Jewett, completed an apprenticeship with the Wildlife Trust last year. He has some really interesting and insightful views about woodland and wildlife that we felt would be of interest to readers.

In part four of this Woodland Journeyman mini series, Jon shares some hope in the fight against Ash Dieback. Ed

There is hope.

Some European Ash may yet show signs of resilience, with Forest Research and their European partners already unlocking the tree and fungus genetic coding with unprecedented rapidity.

Click on images to see larger versions and descriptions

Pre-emptive Ash tree felling along footpath by Jon Jewett

But it’s still early days and natural immune response is expected to take 100s of years to develop and then repopulate the countryside with disease resistant variants.

The Living Ash Project
The Living Ash Project hopes to assist and speed up this recovery by monitoring resilient trees and planting from their potentially resistant seed stock in strict controlled experiments. Remarkably, within a few years we may have the ability to replant what has been lost.

Stag Heading - an infected Ash tree surrounded by seemingly healthy neighbours by Jon Jewett

Isolated park trees have also faired slightly better, possibly from being exposed to less spores, in this instance it is advised to collect fallen leaves and burn immediately, whilst labour intensive it might just buy enough time for the “R” number to drop.

Stag Heading - symptoms of Ash Dieback where the canopy is starved of nutrients from the roots by Jon Jewett

Constructive devastation for the greater good
In the meantime we are forced down a path of constructive devastation for the greater good.

As Ash will happily coppice, any tolerant trees should and will regrow from the stump. You are not killing the tree if you retain the root stock by coppicing, this is true for most deciduous native trees in Britain. In fact the life expectancy can be extended by a hundred years in healthy root systems, in some cases indefinitely, we haven’t lived long enough to find out yet.

Discarded Ash bough preparing the ground for new saplings by Jon Jewett

Ask about “unnecessary tree work”
Finally, if you are concerned by unnecessary tree work then please do ask or raise it with your local authority.

Most arborists are militant conservationists and happy to answer inquisitive minds, waffling on for hours. We probably spend too much time in the woods, void of human contact.

Valuable rotting habitat for fungus, grubs and Woodpeckers by Jon Jewett

A minority are also cowboys, like in any other industry. If the answer is simply “The client said so” then be concerned, hug a tree and ask to speak to the manager. If they have a chainsaw in hand then it’s best to maintain a healthy social distance of at least two tree lengths if you value your height.

A thorn in the side is worth two in the hand?
It’s evident the council, professionals and media have failed to effectively get these messages across. We shall have to do better. But also your opinion does matter, as highlighted by the uproar following controversial tree works across The Island.

Healthy Ash tree shedding limbs in high wind by Jon Jewett

If you have an Ash tree in your garden then do check out Forestry England’s illustrated guidance and seek further advice from a professional.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. Go plant a tree, make sure it’s native and don’t forget to water it.

The Old Ash Tree by Susanna Moodie

Thou beautiful Ash! thou art lowly laid,
        And my eyes shall hail no more
    From afar thy cool and refreshing shade,
        When the toilsome journey’s o’er.

    The winged and the wandering tribes of air
        A home ‘mid thy foliage found,
    But thy graceful boughs, all broken and bare,
        The wild winds are scattering round.

    The storm-demon sent up his loudest shout
        When he levelled his bolt at thee,
    When thy massy trunk and thy branches stout
        Were riven by the blast, old tree!

    It has bowed to the dust thy stately form,
        Which for many an age defied
    The rush and the roar of the midnight storm,
        When it swept through thy branches wide.

    I have gazed on thee with a fond delight
       In childhood’s happier day,
    And watched the moonbeams of a summer night
        Through thy quivering branches play.

    I have gathered the ivy wreaths that bound
        Thy old fantastic roots,
    And wove the wild flowers that blossomed round
        With spring’s first tender shoots.

    And when youth with its glowing visions came,
        Thou wert still my favourite seat;
    And the ardent dreams of future fame
        Were formed at thy hoary feet.

    Farewell–farewell–the wintry wind
        Has waged unsparing war on thee,
    And only pictured on my mind
        Remains thy form, time-honoured tree!

Opinion Piece

Sunday, 28th February, 2021 5:45pm


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11 Comments on "A Woodland Journeyman mini series: Ash Dieback #2"

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Guy Eades
I am not sure that Jon Jewitt’s suggestion of ‘blowing up’ trees – article 1 – is a good idea really in any location! His suggestion to plant a new tree for every Ash removed is a good one although I would increase his recommendation to two. Planting ‘native’ trees in traditional woodland is sensible but in other places – gardens, parks, streets – then let’s plant… Read more »
Steve Goodman
Who decides what is beautiful/ attractive, when people disagree and when even if they don’t what is chosen may not be attractive or useful to our many other species suffering serious decline thanks to our previous poor choices? Why not ‘green’ streets with planting to help nature and/ or incredible edibles good for both us and other species? And why not stop wasting so much of what… Read more »

A load of good questions which I think requires a good open debate for all to have. No one person has the answer, a broad collective of thoughts and ideas are required on these.

You raise some very interesting points. The controlled detonation of heavily infected trees is a method that Forestry England are seriously considering in certain circumstances. The vibrations that a chainsaw causes can be enough to brake out weakened branches above, which has a tendency to fall straight down with sharpened point, this can pose quite a risk to the operator, so in the case of a tree… Read more »
So lots of questions from this very useful mini series. Does the IW Council and/or Forestry England have a plan to tackle Ash die back on the Island. If not should it? What about taking pictures of our fine Ash hedgerow trees and Ash woods as an historical record of what the island looked like in 2021. We know the landscape is going to change – dramatically… Read more »
As I’ve mentioned in a couple of comments Forestry England are working hard on this. They’re hosting an open lecture of current thinking and ash die back management soon, there’s a link on the Isle of Wight Coppice Group FB page. With the local council they have recently created a new Tree Audit Officer post who will be handling these issues and many more, as you may… Read more »

Could you email the AONB team about the idea of recording Ash in the AONB landscape?



There’s a beautiful traditional Welsh folk song called The Ash Grove, which I learned at primary school and loved singing. It has a fittingly melancholic air: The ash grove, how graceful, how plainly ’tis speaking; The wind through it playing has music for me, When over its branches the sunlight is breaking, A host of kind faces is gazing on me. The friends of my childhood again… Read more »
Thank you Jon, this information is very useful to me, as I have been monitoring a wood for ash die-back for well over a year now. Your photos of the symptoms are very clear. The loss of mature ash trees to wildlife will be considerable, but it is good to know that coppicing can save them and that disease resistant varieties could soon be available. A couple… Read more »
I am pinching your song. The rhythm resembles an old British naval song, “Spanish Ladies”. Thank you for sharing. If you would like further info on Ash Die Back and woodland management, Forestry England are hosting a free online lecture soon with updated info. Details can be found on the Isle of Wight Coppice Group FB page. Cankers in old ash can be quite common and not… Read more »