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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.


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.

The Ash Looks Back

While the school sessions are postponed and some activities have gone online, I’ve been quietly working away, researching and developing my own artwork ready for the exhibition (now scheduled for October instead of July). The Ash Looks Back is the title I’ve come up with to describe this body of work.

I decided when I was invited to take part in the One Ash project that I wanted to start making work about the perspective of the Ash tree itself, working in collaboration with the tree and the community of organisms that it is part of and supports, and I’ve continued that into my Ash Tree Stream work too.

I’m interested how changing our orientation to a tree changes how we think about and behave towards it. If we assume that the tree is sentient, that it can sense what is happening around it, that it is part of a wider community, not only of trees, but funghi, plants, birds and animals, how does that change the artwork that I feel drawn to make about or with that tree?

I started by attaching my camera trap to the One Ash tree on the Englefield Estate, and didn’t quite get the results I was after. The tree wasn’t on an obvious animal path and there had been a lot of disturbance in the area when other trees around it had been felled or coppiced. So I didn’t get any photos of the deer or other animals that lived there, but I did get one image of Wendy, the Andover Trees United Director.

In the end it was an important photo. We too are animals and our lives are as intertwined with trees as any other. So Wendy became the first animal to be recorded by an Ash tree… or recorded unwittingly by herself, and since then I’ve become open to the idea of people being included in the artwork too.

Recently I’ve been focusing on the Ash trees that I can reach by walking or cycling from my home in the Pewsey Vale in Wiltshire. With the Covid-19 lockdown I have my boy home from school, so he has been joining me on expeditions to locate suitable trees on our allotted daily walk/ride. We take the camera out one weekend, set it up in a promising place, and collect it again a week later.

Sometimes there’s just a couple of videos of waving branches, or a blurry badger bum disappearing out of the frame, but other times there’s 20 or 30 images or videos to look through.

Brown Hare

I’m developing new pieces out of layering different photographs together, and I’m working on a new film too. It’s a slow process, that’s in part led by the trees and animals themselves, as I have to work with what they give me. It can be frustrating and exciting and gives me a precious insight into a world that I don’t usually have access to.

I’ve shared a few examples here of work in progress, the finished film and images won’t be ready for a while, but hopefully it helps to expand people’s understanding of the value of Ash trees for biodiversity, and what we stand to lose when they’ve gone.

Covid-19: Making Some Changes to the Project

In light of the current situation with Covid-19 our plans for school sessions running through to June, and an exhibition in July at CAS (Chapel Arts Studios), unfortunately won’t be possible.

Happily though, Arts Council England have approved our proposal for a few changes to the project, meaning that we can hang on to our funding and continue to support Andover schoolchildren, teachers and families to use art to engage with local Ash Trees, and learn about associated issues such as Climate Breakdown and Biodiversity.

The main changes to the project will be as follows;

  1. The exhibition at the CAS Chapel will be moving to October (dates tbc)
  2. The third session for each of the 5 partner schools will now happen alongside the exhibition, in October
  3. We have produced two resources (Identifying Ash Trees and Making Art With Ash Trees) sharing some of our ideas for identifying and responding to Ash trees, for children and families to use at home or on their daily walks. Anyone is welcome to use these resources, whether you are connected with the 5 partner schools or not.

If you do get out and identify an Ash Tree (or even spot one from a window) please do take a photo, or make artwork about it. You can share photographs of trees or artwork with us using the #AshTreeStream hashtag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

You can also send them to us via email with a little bit of information about them and you (where is the Ash tree? Why did you choose it? What is your name? How old are you?). We can then add them to the blog.

I may not be able to get out to walk and work with our partner schools right now, but we can share our work more widely on here and on social media and help to inspire people to get involved while they are in isolation at home.

Take care, and please do get in touch, I hope to hear from you soon…

Free Resource: Making Art with Ash Trees

Following on from my last post on Identifying Ash Trees, I’ve put together a free downloadable resource with suggested arts activities to carry out with or in response to your own local Ash trees.

As before, please do share your experiences, photos and artworks with us, either on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the #AshTreeStream hashtag, or via email so that we can post them on the blog for you.

All the images used in the resource are taken from Ash Tree Stream school sessions with the 5 partner schools. If you have any questions about the activities, please do get in touch.

Have fun and please remember to follow the government guidelines on social distancing.

Starting Out in Abbotts Ann

Thank you to Maija Liepins who has been the first person to get in contact following the publishing of our Identifying Ash Trees guide.

All words and images below are by Maija. If you’d like to share your own experiences of Ash Trees, please download the guide and share any photographs/artwork with us using the #AshTreeStream hashtag on social media or via email.

Walking this morning while the light was still fresh brightly shimmering on the river and highlighting the hedges… I collected on my phone the sounds of water, and photos of trees, starting out in Abbotts Ann, I headed toward Monxton and on the hill down into the village that was where I saw my first maybe-ash tree.

I took some photos to compare with James’ ash tree identification guide just to be sure.

I headed back home under the railway bridge and back up Duck street, seeing three more rainbows and two teddies on fences and in windows to cheer passers by.

Free Guide: Identifying Ash Trees

With the Covid-19 lockdown and school closures we wanted to support people to get out (on their one walk or cycle ride a day) and start to identify Ash trees growing in their local area.

Whether you have an Ash tree in your garden, on your street, or in your local park, we’d love you to take a photo or make some artwork, and share it with us on social media using the #AshTreeStream hashtag.

If you’re unable to get out right now, You can also share Ash trees that you can see from a window, or a favourite tree that you remember visiting before lockdown. Some people have already shared trees with us, you can see these by clicking on the Your Favourite Ash Trees category.

If you’re not sure what an Ash tree looks like, you can use the simple guide to Identifying Ash Trees that we’ve put together for you. Please download it here:

We will be making a second resource available soon, sharing different approaches to making art from Ash trees, so that once you’ve identified and located your local Ash trees, you can record them with drawings/rubbings, create a map to document your walk to/from them, or write a poem.

Please do stay safe and follow the government guidelines on social distancing.