For decades and centuries – but particularly since the first world war and the formation of the Forestry Commission – ash woodland and individuals have been erased from the landscape, largely by modern forestry and agriculture, taking with them the associated culture and history, flora and fauna and much more. The loss of this welter of evidence is what our great woodland landscape historian, Dr Oliver Rackham, refers to when he talks of loss of meaning from the countryside. Such evidence often usually lost for good.

Of the diseased sites recently reported, 87 stands – nearly half the total – are either nursery sites or new plantings, so this time around, it seems that the finger of blame can be pointed more at conservationists and the horticultural trade than the forester.

I suspect that the blame lies firmly on the shoulders of conservation organisations and hobby foresters, planting new woods for amenity and environmental purposes. More often than not, trees are imported from the continent in generic broadleaved mixes, and planted as random, ill-thought-out patches across the countryside. Such plantings take no account of local landscape, or the natural composition of woodland in their locale, or indeed the likelihood of future colonisation by wild plants and animals. Such plantings are, in the words of one conservation chum, “mindless”, and merely results in “more dull woodland” (the words of another).

Such creation should aim to link and expand existing ancient semi-natural woodland blocks to maximise colonisation by wildlife and to facilitate sustainable management (bringing life-giving light into woodland that is so important to a wide diversity of woodland flowers, butterflies and much else). And above all, wherever possible, the jays and squirrels, and gravity and wind should be allowed to do the planting through natural regeneration. New woodlands would have so much more meaning than the lowest common denominator rubbish being planted at the present time.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2012/nov/23/ash-dieback-tree-planting

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