One Ash

The One Ash project is a sister project to Ash Tree Stream, devised and run by Andover Trees United to support children to learn about sustainable forestry practices through direct experience.

One Ash Poster – Artwork by Alex Marshall

Ash Tree Stream evolved out of an invitation from ATU Director Wendy Davis, for me to develop a programme of creative learning for the children involved in One Ash, linking their experiences of a single Ash Tree on the Englefield Estate near Reading, to Ash Trees living and growing in their own local environment.

Photo: Becky McGugan, Andover Trees United

Inspired by The Sylva Foundation’s ‘One Oak’ project, Andover Trees United’s ‘One Ash’ project continues to develop learning in the natural environment by bringing attention to the plight of tree disease and, in particular, ash dieback and nurturing a greater understanding of sustainable forestry management.

Andover Trees United’s volunteers and partner schools will gather at a woodland in Ufton Nervet on the Englefield Estate near Reading on Thursday, February 13th 2020, to learn about how woodlands are managed…The Andover school children who will watch the ash tree being felled first visited and connected to the tree as part of an outdoor learning project in 2019, ‘Meet the Trees’.

The children will be able to follow the journey of the tree as it is worked into new forms from furniture to tool handles to woodchip for smoking River Test trout.’

Andover Trees United Website

I’ve visited the One Ash tree once already, and will be spending more time with it in the next couple of weeks. I’m going to site my Camera Trap near the tree and try to record some of the animals that live within the ecosystem that it supports.

Roe Deer Camera Trap Image – Hawkwood College Residency

I’ll also be working with one of the schools (Andover C of E Primary School) as they visit the tree prior to felling, to help the children make connections between the two projects, and use art to explore their emotional responses to/relationship with the tree.

If you’d like to find out more about the One Ash project, please follow this link to the ATU website.

The Ash Tree by Sally Potter

The Ash Tree

Gathered on the grass in your mottled, welcome
shade down at the end of the sweltering garden,
we toast the newlyweds’ happiness here. Glorious tree!
I gaze up at your tiny twigs and bright leaves’ tracery
against the summer sky. Beneath your cool umbrella
I’ll rock each new-born’s pram, push the swing ever-higher
as summers pass, tell the children stories of you long ago,
a sapling struggling in a long-lost hedgerow.

Your fine foliage will fade and flutter down
upon the see-saw, slide, the trampoline, around
your ivy-clad, divided trunk, the pond
where every spring we’ll hunt for tadpoles, tiny frogs
and signs of life among the bulbs we planted at your base
before the snows brought jauntily-dressed snowmen, keeping pace
in stature with the children. I feel you keep the family safe,
that you watch over them, magnificent, strong ash.

But now we shiver, gathered here to watch the moon’s eclipse
beneath your curving limbs’ black lacework, your tapering tips
pointing to the starry sky. They’re moving on. I stoop to gather leaves
to press and keep, to try to stop the stabs of sharp, surprising grief.

January, 2018

Thank you to Sally for this heartfelt poem about the relationship between an Ash Tree and her family. (paired with a photo of my son and his friend in their own favourite Ash Tree).

Sally writes:

‘I try to convey the beauty of the ash and its connection to our family, but I would be very pleased if sharing the poem could help in some small way to publicise why trees matter to us, the need to save these beautiful trees from ash die back and protect future trees, and the importance of current efforts to plant more forests.’

More Favourite Ash Trees

Although the focus of the Ash Tree Stream school sessions is very much on the Ash Trees of the Andover area, I’m enjoying linking my own Andover-based research with learning about the place of the Ash Tree in the wider UK landscape.

With the popularity of the earlier ‘Your Favourite Ash Trees’ post, I decided to add a new post to accommodate all the images, memories and other contributions that are trickling in via social media etc.

If you’re in the Andover area and you’d like to share a local Ash Tree, that would be fantastic, and I’ll set up a new post specifically.

In the meantime the first tree to be added to this post is this beautiful big old Ash, from Summergill Brook, New Radnor. The photograph was taken by Nigel Pugh and shared with us on Twitter by Woodland Trust Cymru:

‘Photo… is an Ancient Ash Tree recorded on the Ancient Tree Forum from New Radnor, Mid Wales. Close to its upper age limit, girth 5.7m. This tree has been holding this oxbow together for centuries!’

Nigel says of the tree:

‘I was told it may of been an ancient Ash tree silvopasture by Jill Butler due to the horizontal branches, imagine that restored there… I love the idea of living Ash Trees, ancient remnants of Ash Silvopoasture, that may not have Ash Die Back. There’s some seed to propogate from with the owners permission. Deep soil, flood plain, ancient, healthy ash?’

This delicate print by artist Shona Branigan was shared with us via Twitter. Shona writes:

‘The Ash Tree overlooking Swaledale is ancient – she’s listed on the ancient tree register. She lost a major limb in 2019, and I was lucky enough to have been given 2 slices which I have now printed’

Please do get in touch if you would like to share your own Favourite Ash Tree.

Perpetual Choir for the Ash

Sharing this event from Facebook for Azul Valerie Thome:

Imagine a “Perpetual Choir” of humans singing for 24 hours non stop across our Earth for the healing of the 90 million Ash tree and all her relations. You bring your Choir, your family and friends to an Ash tree and sing song of beauty and healing. We create together a wave of beneficial and regenerative sound.

Here a little about the origin of The Perpetual Choirs of Britain

Let us know where you are and when you will sing for the Ash tree; ADD YOUR SLOT in the doc so we cover 24hours together:

Your Favourite Ash Trees

It’s been brilliant to have people responding to Ash Tree Stream posts by sharing their own favourite Ash Trees on Twitter and Facebook, and writing poetry.

To start off this evolving post of contributions here is a Haiku written by John Hawkhead on Twitter:

die back

the old ash

turned to ash

This latest photograph shared by Dan Lombard (@ViperaDan on Twitter) shows perfectly how Ash Trees offer homes and habitats to a range of wildlife:

‘My favourite Ash tree in N. Yorks, home to breeding Little and Barn Owls. Similar trees in the Yorkshire Wolds, Ash is the dominant tree species there due to the underlying chalk geology and lots of trees like this offering excellent habitat for nesting birds.’

Thank you to Jo Echo Syan for sharing this photograph of her favourite Ash Tree, at home in her garden, via Facebook:

This next Ash Tree was shared by Julia Brigdale on Twitter. Julia says ‘Here is one of my favourite Ash Trees, I see it every day from my kitchen window, and walk to it many times throughout the week. It has a rain receptacle which my dog makes use of.’

Simon Houstoun posted this photograph that he took of sculptures made by the artists Ackroyd and Harvey from Ash wood:

‘The Ash sculptures by Harvey & Ackroyd, are located high up on the North Kent Downs. They are a celebration of ash trees and a memorial to the devastating effects of ash dieback on the most common tree in the Kent Downs. Seen against a setting sun they are very special.’

Simon continues: ‘…recommend listening to BBC radio 4 Open Country; it featured the Ash Project on 22/11/2018 & is still available to listen to on BBC website /Sounds’

As Simon mentions the sculpture was commissioned by The Ash Project which I am planning on writing about in a separate blog post soon. In the meantime you can read more about the sculptures here.

And lastly thank you to Dan Hooks, Andover based poet, who says about his poem ‘This is based on the Viking myth of Yggdrasil the tree of life’:

Andover Ash Trees

Rising from the Ash trees
we are the dust
from those trees
the first man and woman rose from the ashes
maybe we were born in the fires
of dead worlds
every boy and every girl
are Phoenix souls

by Daniel Hooks aka Alien Poet

If you have an Ash Tree that is significant to you, in the form of a photograph that you’ve taken, a piece of artwork or a poem, and you are happy for me to share it on here, please send it to me at

Spending Time With My Favourite Ash Tree

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…

  1. Ash Trees can sometimes be Hermaphroditic
  2. 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.

Exploring Together at Portway Junior School

At Portway Juniors they have their own small woodland, planted with the Andover Trees United Director, Wendy Davis, and a woodland trail that runs through it, along the edge of the school field. The wood is fairly young and consists of a mix of native species. Today’s group of children were a Year 3 class, with their teacher Alex Walker, and after a similar start to the other four introductory sessions, we moved outside to explore this area.

The children seemed keen to identify or name different tree species and to talk about whether or not they were healthy. The introduction given by Becky in the classroom to Ash Die Back Disease, and the offering of stethoscopes and magnifying glasses to look and listen more closely, gave the children an opportunity to consider the trees as living beings, ones on whom our own health and well-being depends.

‘Before today I just thought trees were wood, with leaves…’

We found a few young Ash Trees amongst the Sweet Chestnuts, Oaks, Beech and others, and helped the children to use their senses to notice the bark and buds, the fallen leaves, and the wildlife that uses the woodland as their home.

‘I loved spending time in nature… ‘ ‘I’ve learnt different types of trees.’

On our way out of the classroom we heard a Peregrine Falcon squabbling with a mobbing crow, and looked up to watch them pass, then talked together about the pair that next on St Mary’s Church in the centre of Andover. On exploring the wooded area we found a cluster of pigeon feathers too and tried to work out who had eaten the pigeon – a fox? the Peregrine?

On our next session we will be walking to Charlton Lakes and documenting our experiences of the Ash Trees that grow there. Children have suggested that we collect different objects and materials on our way, that we could make artwork from found materials. They also suggested that we revisit the ways of working that we introduced them to today, using rubbings, writing, drawing and printing into their project sketchbooks.

Becky and I noticed the children’s interest in the health of the trees, and the fact that we rely on them for our needs too. We wondered if following this up and looking into the science a little more, and the interrelationship of tree and human health might be a good way to go with this group.

‘If all the trees go, there won’t be any oxygen, and we won’t be able to survive.’

It’s these glimpses of emerging ideas and concerns, that give us the starting point we need for planning a session which grabs the children’s imagination and holds their interest.

Today was the final introductory session with the five partner schools. Next comes our shared Inset (teacher CPD) for all the teachers involved, at the end of January in the CAS Chapel in St Mary’s Churchyard, central Andover. The Inset will give everyone a chance to meet, discuss how the first session went, and explore the value of art in outdoor learning, focusing particularly on child-centred ways of working. It will also give the teaching staff a chance to see our exhibition venue, ahead of our shared exhibition there in July 2020.

I’ll also start taking more time now to document my own experiences of Ash Trees, both in Andover, and where I live in Wiltshire. With the school sessions underway, I’m developing a clearer picture of where we will be visiting next, and the kind of themes we will be exploring with each group, so I can respond through my own artwork, and continue with my research into the cultural and ecological role of Ash Trees.

One thing I’m keen to do is identify places around Andover that are linked with Ash Trees, and visit them. I’ve found Ash Tree Road on Google Maps, and today the children pointed out that one part of the school lies on Ashfield Road. If you know of any other place names in and around Andover that are Ash Tree related, or have a favourite Ash Tree you’d like to share, please do get in touch.

A Frosty Start with Appleshaw St Peters

The mist stayed with us throughout the morning at Appleshaw St Peter’s Primary School. With a similar range of materials and the same introduction as the other four schools, its really interesting for Becky and I to see how the children respond.

Appleshaw has lovely wooded grounds with quite a few Ash Trees, as well as a few other species. After introducing ourselves, the project partners, and our plans for the year ahead (including the Ash Tree Stream exhibition at Chapel Arts Studios at the end of the Summer Term next year), we took the children outside.

There was quite a lot of work that used words today, with several poems developing out of our request to the group to pay attention to their senses.

The thick frost on the ground, frozen spider webs hanging from bushes, and the pale mist filling the spaces between the trees and across the fields, lent the landscape a real character. The children certainly seemed inspired.

“We normally do sketching indoors…” Girl talking about her experiences of art

We started by basing ourselves under a beautiful big Oak tree, which dropped its leaves into our boxes of materials and onto our paper, then we moved away once the frost melted and the dropping leaves became drips of water.

The children were a bit cold after an hour outside, but after a break inside to look at each other’s work and thaw out a little, we moved back outdoors and challenged them to learn from each other’s artwork, to experiment with layering different resources together, and to persevere with a piece of artwork even when it didn’t turn out as they had hoped.

“My favourite thing is drawing and making all the stuff that we can see and hear…”

“If you’re doing art in nature, you connect with nature” – Girl reflecting on her morning

We will continue our discussions with Zoe Yelland, the class teacher, as the project develops and we plan the second session. At the moment we seem to be heading in the direction of exploring words and sounds, poems and stories, and their relationship to our embodied experiences of trees in general and Ash Trees in particular.

Taking Art Outside with Andover C of E Primary School

This morning was Becky and my first session of the project with Andover Church of England Primary School, a town centre school with whom Andover Trees United has worked a number of times before, carrying out tree planting and other activities. For Ash Tree Stream we are working with Class 3 and their teacher Charlotte Down.

Although there are no Ash Trees on the school site, we gave the children a chance to use their sketchbooks to explore and record the trees they do have, in a range of different ways. In our next session in March, which will be a full day, we will walk together through the town, following the River Anton towards Rooksbury Mill, to find and record the Ash Trees that grow along its banks.

Today Becky gave the children an introduction to how Ash Die Back Disease affects the health of Ash Trees. We explained to the children that we wanted to give them a chance to celebrate the Ash Tree, and to notice them and the ecosystems that they support, while they are still here. We also explained the particular significance that the Ash Tree has to Andover, through the origin of the town’s name, and its links with the local river.

The children made use of the resources on offer to take rubbings of leaves, logs, a wooden fence and other features, discussing the patterns and textures as they did so. We explored ways of combining the different media together to record our sensory experiences, observed the way that the frosty ice crystals highlight leaf veins and other structures, and compared the shapes and sizes of different leaf prints.

One boy used rubbings of different found materials to create ‘a woodland scene’, whilst another created a thickly layered and textured page out of the resources on offer. As with sessions at the two previous schools, we stressed the importance of being playful and experimental, of there not being a right or wrong way to explore and record.

“Think of the whole field as being your art…” – A boy sharing his work with a classmate

In the time between now and our next session in March, the children will continue to work with Charlotte, using their sketchbooks to link all their learning together. They will also take their books home to share with family and record experiences of Ash Trees near to where they live.

As they do so, we will keep in touch with school, to follow where their journey takes them, and plan consecutive sessions that build on their ideas and interests. To kick start this shared planning, we finished this morning’s session by gathering together a list of ideas that the children would like to contribute to session 2, and the equipment that they think we will need.

There’s always a lot of work involved in setting up a project, but it is all made worthwhile for me when I kneel beside a child on a school field, and experience their sense of wonder as they notice the beauty of a fallen leaf, or the movement of a fast escaping worm.

“I never thought it would be this much fun… I really want to do another rubbing!”

Starting Out at Vernham Dean

This morning was the first Ash Tree Stream session at Vernham Dean Gillum’s Primary School at Vernham Dean, a village about 9 miles north of Andover.

The content of this first session was similar to that at Harrow Way last week. I want to offer the schools the same general starting point and then the freedom to take the project off in different directions as time goes on. The main differences with this first session were that Vernham Dean is a very rural school, unlike Andover-based Harrow Way, and that I was working with Year 3 and 4 children today, whereas at Harrow Way the students were a fair bit older, being in Year 8.

It was a beautifully bright and frosty morning today, with the low sun shining up the valley as we explored out in the school grounds. We used a range of ways to support the children to record what they noticed about the Ash Trees that grow there, and a number of other tree species too. Becky wasn’t able to join us this time, so Jacob, an ATU volunteer and qualified teacher came along to support the session.

In each of these introductory sessions, we are asking the children what they’d like to do next. Session 2 with each school will be a full day, spent getting out into the surrounding area, finding, recording and interacting with the Ash Trees and other features or species that we find there.

At Harrow Way some students suggested focusing on footprints, identifying animals by their tracks and maybe casting some. They also were keen to take photographs and to make artwork from fallen branches and other found materials.

Today at Vernham Dean the group talked about mapping, and finding ways to share the location of local ash trees with others, creating leaflets or tree labels, and recording the trees with different kinds of drawing.

The second session at each school will take place in February or March, so there is some time in between now and then for schools to take the themes and explore how they connect with existing and planned topics. We have also asked children to take their sketchbooks home to respond to and record the Ash Trees near to where they live.

In the meantime I have two more sessions to run this week, with Andover Church of England Primary School on Wednesday, and Appleshaw St Peter’s School on Thursday, with the final introductory session at Portway Junior school next week, on Wednesday 11th.

I’m also developing my own artwork, in response to time spent with both trees and children, and will share some of that as things evolve.