Three reports in different newspapers have attracted my attention over the last day or two. Each of those reports is rather gloomy in its way, reinforcing my opinion that one never reads any good news in the papers. The first of those reports concerned England's ash trees. They are, apparently, at risk because a deadly fungus which was first discovered in Poland about ten years ago has now made its way to our shores, possibly by way of already infected saplings imported from Holland. This fungus causes ash die-back (as the condition is called) and the affected trees die. It seems there is no cure. Any tree found to be infected is cut down and the timber burned. [Hence the groan-inducing pun of my title.] But the infection can go undetected for about six months, thus exacerbating the situation. According to the report I was reading, a third of England's broad-leaved woodland consists of ash trees so this is a serious situation. I was surprised and somewhat sceptical to read the fraction of a third. Although I have never undertaken a count or a tree survey, and I know the ash is a common tree in our woodlands, I would not have thought it was as prevalent as that. Mind you, round here the beech and sycamore are possibly the most common trees in the woods. The sycamore grows like the weed it is, while the beech is particularly well-suited to the thin layer of soil on the Downs since it has a shallow rooting system.
Another newspaper - our local freebie - reported a problem with elm trees. Back in the 1970s the English countryside scene was altered dramatically when elm trees were felled in their thousands as a result of Dutch elm disease. Brighton & Hove, fortunately, suffered comparatively little, partly because the Downs formed a natural barrier against the transmission of the disease and partly because of quick and effective action by the local authority. Now it seems that elm trees in Preston Park, Brighton, have contracted a disease, although the report does not state specifically that it is Dutch elm disease. Several have already been felled but the two known as the Preston Twins - at 350 years, the oldest elm trees in the world - are still healthy.
The third report concernes a far more serious affair - hurricane Sandy, which is due to make its landfall on the east coast of America today, I believe. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been evacuated, the New York subway shut down, etc etc. That alone is an indication of how serious this is. But how does an authority find accommodation for 400,000 refugees? Who pays? What about feeding them? I'm very glad that is not my headache. I'm also very glad that I live in England where natural disasters of that magnitude just don't happen.
By the way, I did get that replacement hinge on the gate yesterday. I also spent an hour cutting back brambles that had grown alarmingly while I was hors de combat over the past few months. Now I have to spend another hour taking the rubbish to the tip!
Today's picture is of a grove of ash trees in High Park Wood. The area around them has been cleared to give them a chance to spread properly. This pic also serves as a reminder that I haven't walked through those woods for a long time.