Introducing Ash Tree Stream

Ash Tree Stream is a one-year visual arts project, led by artist James Aldridge, in partnership with Andover Trees United, CAS (Chapel Arts Studios) and five schools in the Andover area:

Ash Tree Stream will enable children and staff to use visual arts processes to learn about Ash trees and Ash dieback disease, outside of the classroom, and within the context of local cultural heritage and climate change.

The project will provide an opportunity for children to meet and learn about the work of a professional artist, many of them for the first time. James will support the children to develop new artistic skills through documenting their experiences of Ash Trees and their place in their local heritage (Andover is thought to get its name from ‘‘on dubr’ meaning Ash Tree Stream).

New artwork by James and the children, along with project documentation, will be shared with the wider school community and the public, through an exhibition at the CAS exhibition space in central Andover in Summer 2020.

Together with Andover Trees United Education Officer Becky McGugan (funded through the Ernest Cook Trust), James will support teachers to explore the value of art within outdoor learning, as a way of enabling learning through the whole person – their body, emotions and imagination, as well as intellect.

After declaring a climate and ecological emergency earlier this year, and taking part in a recent National Assembly with Culture Declares Emergency, I am keen to use my work as an artist to promote awareness of the crises that we face, and what each of us can do about it.

This funding from Arts Council England and CAS will enable me to develop a new body of work through my own research into Ash trees and Ash Die-Back, and ways of working with schools/communities and their local trees that can be applied to other towns. This comes at a time when an appreciation of the need for and value of trees within our communities is increasing in the face of climate and ecological breakdown.

James Aldridge, Artist – October 2019

Please do come back and follow our progress here, and keep in touch on social media by searching for the #AshTreeStream hashtag.

If you would like to tell us about the Ash Trees in your area, or share your own Ash related artwork, we’d love to hear from you, just go to the Contact page and send us a message.

Thank you.

Living by the Ash Tree Waters

Originally posted on James Aldridge – Art, Ecology and Learning in March 2022

James Aldridge - Art, Ecology and Learning

This month I start work on a new project with Andover Trees United, which builds on my previous work on Ash Tree Stream, only this time we will focus more closely on Andover’s relationship with its river, The Anton.

Living by the Ash Tree Waters (LATW) will see me working with school children and community groups, to develop backpack based portable artworks/interactive interpretation, which in turn will support local people to experience their local rivers (particularly chalkstreams) in new ways.

Today I was meant to be starting things off with Portway Junior School in Andover, but had to postpone the session due to my son having Covid. Fingers crossed I’ll be back out next week to get the ball rolling with Appleshaw St Peter’s School, and get…

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Goodbye and Thank You from Ash Tree Stream

This may be the end of the Ash Tree Stream project but by no means the end of the work that Andover Trees United are doing in the local community, with artists, or Ash trees – keep up to date with their work va the ATU website and get involved if you can.

You can also visit the Ash Tree Stream page on the CAS (Chapel Arts Studios) website to see the video tour, my interview and a recording of our panel discussion.

You can follow what I get up to next via my individual artist blog at www.jamesaldridgeart.wordpress.com and see my new art and reseach project Queer River at www.queerriver.com.

For now I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to comment on here, to share their own Ash tree related art, photos and experiences using the #AshTreeStream hashtag on Twitter and other social media, and of course all the children, teachers and project partners who have worked together over a very challenging year to create some really special moments.

All of which wouldn’t have happened without the funding I very gratefully received from Arts Council England and CAS.

Here is some feedback from some of those lovely people to leave you with.

‘The children have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the project. They are now all able to identify the trees around them, take greater care in looking after their environment and we have been surprised by the artistic vocabulary they are now using within their art lessons.’

Primary Class Teacher

‘A lovely, thoughtful project which was enjoyed by students and staff alike. We appreciated the calm approach and the inclusivity. Thank you for all your hard work and planning, and your generosity of materials, and spirit.’

Secondary Art Teacher

‘…the children responded to their experiences with interest, delight and even surprise at what they discovered. The discoveries were not merely factual; they offered the children the chance to experience their world in new and unexpected ways.
“Think of the whole field as being your art…” and “If you’re doing art in nature, you connect with nature” are two of my favourite quotes.’

Wendy Davis, Andover Trees United

‘My favourite thing is drawing and making all the stuff we can see and hear’

Year 3 Student

Ash Tree Stream Exhibition: Video Tour

As the Ash Tree Stream exhibition was only able to open for two days before lockdown, I am very happy to be able to share this short video tour of the exhibition at CAS (Chapel Arts Studios), that I have filmed and put together.

Hopefully this will help us reach all of you who have supported us and been involved in the project along the way. Please do have a watch and let us know what you think.

Thank you, James.

Panel Discussion, Live Interview and Instagram Takeover

In my previous post I shared the dates of the Ash Tree Stream Exhibition. I also mentioned that there would be some online events running alongside the physical exhibition. We understand that this is a difficult time for many people and not all of you will be able to visit the actual exhibition, so are reaching out via these online events, to connect with as many people as we can.

On Wednesday 4th November from 4.30 to 6pm there will be an Interactive Panel Discussion on the subject of Art in Environmental Education, involving myself, Wendy Davis of Andover Trees United, CAS Curator and Artist Susan Francis and Founding Director of Climate Museum UK, Bridget McKenzie. You can find more details and book your free ticket here.

On Wednesday 11th November from 6pm I will be interviewed on Instagram Live about my practice as an artist working in the areas of art, ecology and learning. Again the event is free and you can join us on the @CASArtists Instagram page.

In addition I will be taking over the @CASArtists Instagram page from Wednesday 4th to Wednesday 11th of November, to link in with the Ash Tree Stream exhibition and would love to engage with as many people as possible on there, to explore how art, ecology, learning, trees, climate etc all intersect and what we can achieve together.

Ash Tree Stream Exhibition: 3rd – 14th November

I am very glad to be able to share the following poster for the Ash Tree Stream Exhibition at Chapel Arts Studios in Andover.

The exhibition will share documentation and artwork from project sessions with all five schools, from our inset session with teachers, and my own individual photographic and video based artwork.

As you might expect, visitor numbers will be limited to ensure everyone’s safety, and all exhibition visitors are asked to follow current COVID19 guidlines.

We will also be running two public online events linked to the exhibition (in addition to a dedicated sesson for each school), the first being an interview with myself on Instagram Live, and the second a panel discussion on the theme of The Role of Art In Environmental Education.

More details to follow on these very soon.

Starting Up Again: Ash Tree Stream Emerges from Lockdown

This month sees us running our next two school sessions, postponed from the Spring due to Covid-19.

Myself and Andover Trees United‘s current Education Officer Emily Roper, will be working with Appleshaw St Peters and Portway Junior Schools, following on from the sessions that Becky and I ran earlier in the year.

These sessions will take place in the school grounds rather than out in the local community as originally planned, but luckily both schools have wooded grounds with a selection of Ash Trees that we can respond to.

In addition to these day-long sessions in September, Emily and I will will be working with all five schools alongside the Ash Tree Stream exhibition, at the CAS (Chapel Arts Studios) Chapel in St Mary’s Churchyard, Andover. These sessions will be run via a live video link to the exhibition.

The exhibition will be open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday, 11.00 a.m to 4.00 p.m for the first two weeks of November (opens Tuesday 3rd November), and will combine my own artwork with that of the children and teachers involved in the project, so please do come along and see the wonderful work that’s been created.

Booking isn’t necessary but the number of people admitted to the exhibition will be limited according to the current guidance, and masks will need to be worn.

The Community Open Day originally planned for Saturday 7th November will sadly not now be able to happen, due to restrictions on the size of gatherings, but the exhibition will still be open, and we are planning two exciting interactive online events exploring the themes of the exhibition, with details to follow very soon!

Please do sign up for updates via the ‘Follow by Email’ button below, to ensure you receive all information about the exhibition and associated events. Thank you…

Sharing the Learning at Portway Juniors

It’s been lovely to see that even in semi-lockdown the children at Portway Junior School have been using our free online resources (Identifying Ash Trees and Making Art with Ash Trees) to inspire more creative learning with their local trees.

Thank you to teacher Alex Walker and her colleagues for sharing these images with us, as a taste of what the children have been getting up to, across the different year groups.

Anyone is welcome to download the resources and share their artful experiments with us, just follow the links above and then get in touch with the results.

Potley Lane Field

Thank you to artist Rachel Heard for sharing these photos and a painting of her favourite Ash tree near where she lives in Corsham, Wiltshire:

Here are some photos of a lovely big old Ash tree that stands in some fields two minutes walk from my house. There is a public right of way and I started walking my dogs there when we moved around the corner about 7 years ago.

We love the field as a family and have had many fun walks there together, spotting wildlife (butterflies, deer, rabbits, bats), naming puddles and seeing the seasons pass.

In 2017/18 building work started for a new housing estate. I felt a mixture of emotions, from rationalizing that new housing was needed, to grieving the loss of habitat for the wildlife there.

I documented the changing landscape through photography and ended up painting the view with the Ash tree, before the new estate had been built, as a kind of memorial.

I didn’t know if the Ash tree would remain when building started but I’m thankful to say it is still there, having born witness to the change of landscape around it.

I showed my photos and paintings at Right Angle Framing Shop in Corsham and Ian, who works in the shop, bought my painting as he used to play in those fields throughout his childhood.

I noticed how many of the towns I had seen in the countryside in my childhood were changing really fast during those two years, with new housing estates being built on the outskirts of towns. For example: Derry Hill, Calne, Melksham and Corsham. I really feel that the loss of countryside should be documented in some way for future generations.

If you’d like to share your own photographs, memories or artwork responding to an Ash tree near you please get in touch and we can include them here, or alternatively share on social media tagging your post with the #AshTreeStream hashtag.

Looking for Ash Trees in Abbotts Ann

Thanks very much to Alex Marshall, who contacted me with these photographs of Ash Trees that she and Wendy Davis located, with the help of the Identifying Ash Trees blog post.

Wendy and I have been inspired by your AshTreeStream blog posts to go out and look for ash trees in Abbotts Ann. We were pretty amazed at just how many Ash trees there were!

We are also hoping to create some ash-themed artwork over the weekend, based on our daily walks – will keep you posted how that goes…

I’m looking forward to the artwork that Alex has been making. If you are able to get out and about and locate your own local Ash trees, please get in touch with a photo, and some information about where you are and what you noticed, we’d love to share them. Then maybe you could use the suggestions in the Making Art with Ash Trees resource to make some artwork too?

The fresh green leaves that have emerged over the last few weeks are looking beautiful in the Spring sunshine, and the Ash keys are appearing in bright bunches too. Here’s a photo from a tree near to my own house in Wiltshire. Apparently you can pickle Ash keys to eat (here’s a recipe), but if you’re one of the children involved in the project, please do ask an adult before eating any kind of tree seeds.

Art with Ash Trees: Drawing by Jo Beal

As schools closed and the Ash Tree Stream exhibition was postponed (see more here), the participatory element of Ash Tree Stream temporarily moved online, with two free downloadable resources to get you all involved – Identifying Ash Trees and Making Art with Ash Trees.

We are asking people to identify an Ash Tree near where they live, and either share a photo with us (see here for photos taken by Maija Liepins on a walk near Andover), or to make some artwork inspired by the Ash Tree Stream project examples included in the second resource.

In his post we are very happy to share a drawing made by Artist Jo Beal, who grew up in the Andover area and now lives in Swindon. You can find out more about Jo’s artwork here – https://jobeal.net

‘This particular Ash Tree was a mature one on the edge of Clouts Wood, a WWT reserve on the edge of Wroughton. I’ve discovered I can walk there and back, which I am loving. It’s about 8 miles altogether and the woodland is beautiful. I’ll be heading there over the weekend I’m sure. The wood is in a steep bank and the ground is covered in bluebells and wild garlic which I think will have come in to flower over the last few days.’

If you have discovered an Ash Tree near where you live and would like to share a photo or artwork with us, we’d love to hear from you. Either email them to James, or post them on social media and tag your post with the #AshTreeStream hashtag.