Ash is one of the commonest trees in the British Isles - there arenearly as many ash trees as there are people. Perhaps this is why wetake them for granted. Poets write of oak, yew, elm, willow, rarely ash.No books have been written about ash trees before. Yet Ash is one of the most productive hardwoods in Europe. Itsstrength and elasticity are qualities our Neolithic ancestors recognisedwhile building their tracks across the marshlands of Somerset. Ash hasbeen used ever since, to build and warm homes, to feed livestock, tocure. Before steel it was used to make ploughs and rakes, wheel rims,boat frames, tent pegs and weapons. The human population is notalone finding sustenance and shelter in Ash: woodpeckers bore nestholes into them, bats breed in veteran trees, insects, lichens, mossesand liverworts thrive on ash bark, as do hares and rabbits in winter. The first noticing of Ash Disease in 2012 brought this underappreciated tree to our attention.In response, Oliver Rackham has written this first history and ecology of the ash tree, exploring its placein human culture, explaining Ash Disease, and arguing that globalisationis now the single greatest threat to the world's trees and forests.
We cannot go on treating trees like tins of paint or cars to be tradedaround the world. Neither can we assume that planting a tree is, bydefault, a good thing. Industrial planting and irresponsible trade arealready devastating the world's tree populations. The Ash Tree is OliverRackham's call for a radical shift in our attitude to trees - how we plantthem, how we care for them after they are planted. There is no more urgent message for our times.
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