Oliver Rackham is one of the UK’s experts on the countryside, its history and its woodland and so he is well-placed to write this short guide to what may be a rather unappreciated tree.
I enjoyed this book very much, and for two main reasons. First, it was written in a very clear way that meant that I, an ignoramus when it comes to trees, learned a lot very easily. And I always like that sort of book. Second, Rackham is opinionated (and his opinions are worth listening to) and he is pretty forthright in setting out what he thinks. And I usually like that sort of author.
Here is a short extract to illustrate my point: ‘Get real. Stop letting the anthropology of commerce overrule the practical world. Stop treating plants (and bees) as mere articles of trade, like cars or tins of paint, to be made and bought in industrial quantities from anywhere. Importing a million cars does not imperil the cars that are already here, but trees are different.‘
Rackham is right. The consequences of global travel where a person can switch countries and/or continents in a day, coupled with a disease, Ebola in this case, which has an incubation period of weeks, is a medical epidemiologist’s nightmare. Importing tree saplings into tree nurseries all over the country (like ‘coals to Newcastle’ as Rackham writes) has proved to be the equivalent for trees. This cat is out of its bag – and it will scratch us badly.
This book, then, is a handy guide to Ash dieback in particular, and tree diseases in general, but it is also a very informative and accessible guide to one of our most familiar trees which deserves its write-up by a leading ecologist and conservationist.
The Ash Tree by Oliver Rackham is published by Little Toller Books.
A Message from Martha by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury.