The Ash and the Beech: the Drama of Woodland Change, by Richard Mabey
The Ash and the Beech: The Drama of Woodland Change
After celebrating the beauties of his twin subjects (the “quiet, pale” ash and the beech’s “voluptuous grace”), Mabey gets stuck into the virulent spectre of ash dieback disease. Is it a catastrophe? Yes, he says. Should ash trees be cut down wholesale, in a panicky attempt to “do something”? Absolutely not. The veteran nature writer makes a persuasive case for doing nothing, drawing evidence from another woodland catastrophe, the great storm of October 1987, which brought down large numbers of trees across the UK. The eventual result was an unprecedented period of regrowth not just for the trees but for wild flowers and woodland ecosystems generally. Mabey offers an informative history of the English relationship with trees, looking at the influence of writers from John Evelyn, in the 17th century, through Gilbert White, in the 18th, to Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows and creator of the notion of the wild wood that has so taken hold of the English imagination. And there’s a lot of wandering around in wonderful woods.