I drive past a particular Ash Tree on the way to my son’s school. It’s part of a hedge that runs along a single track road, near where we live in the Pewsey Vale, so not the easiest place to stop. I’ve cycled past before and admired it, but never stopped to poke my head inside the hedge or spend some proper time with it.
Today I thought I’d cycle out to this Ash Tree, wake up my brain and body after a festive season of rest and chocolate, and begin making new artwork for Ash Tree Stream. I’ll be back in Andover next week exploring and responding to the town’s Ash Trees, but for today I was staying local.
I took paper, printed with images of the Ash in the hedge (taken from my car window one day in anticipation of coming back when I had more time), and a few mark-making materials, then set out to meet the tree properly for the first time.
It’s a beautiful old gnarled and twisted tree, about 10 feet wide and stretching around 20 feet or more along the hedge. Inside the hedge clumps of thick moss cover some of the bony knuckles, and today there was a distinct smell of fox wee.
A badger path made its way through the hedge, a pigeon’s stick-built next was slowly filling with dead leaves, and yellowhammers popped up and flew away as I arrived.
Although I’ve not been in Andover during the Christmas Holidays, Ash Trees continue to call me to notice them wherever I go, and as well as walking and cycling to map my local Ash Trees, I’m also continuing to read any books that are Ash Tree related (all suggestions gratefully received). At the moment I’m reading An Epitaph for the Ash by Lisa Samson.
Samson describes her book as ‘…a rallying cry to pick up your walking sticks, pens, paintbrushes and cameras, then record and enjoy what we have while we still have it’.
I’m not an Ash Tree expert, but am really enjoying using the project to focus my arts practice on a particular area of research, and learn about Ash Trees while they are still here.
My favourite facts from the last couple of weeks that I plan to follow up on are…
- Ash Trees can sometimes be Hermaphroditic
- Yggdrasil the Norse Tree of Life was an Ash Tree – ‘Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is center to the cosmos and considered very holy. The gods go to Yggdrasil daily to assemble at their things, traditional governing assemblies. The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr. ‘ – Wikipedia
In a couple of weeks I’ll be facilitating a professional development (Inset) session for all the teachers involved in Ash Tree Stream, with Becky from Andover Trees United, at the CAS Chapel in St Mary’s Churchyard, Andover. And then from February the school sessions will start up again.
In the meantime, if you have your own favourite Ash Tree please do let me know, either as a comment here or by using the #AshTreeStream hashtag on social media.