O to be in England now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm tree-bole are in tiny leaf…………….
HOME THOUGHTS, FROM ABROAD Robert Browning
Well, for April read May in this year of delayed seasons. Yesterday I found another healthy elm tree, this one on the Staunton Ridgeway footpath which Jacqueline and I created in 1994. That makes three sites on the estate where the elm has survived and grown to a good size. It was the wholesale loss of our English elms which has prompted fears of each new tree disease to hit our shores, the latest one being ‘Ash Dieback’ which has reportedly killed ninety percent of the ash trees in Denmark. Ash trees grow in all our woods, from self-set seedlings to tall giants. Will most of them die? So far we’ve seen no signs of trouble and I have been tending our young plantations in the expectation that they will grow to maturity. Foresters are optimists, almost by definition.
Trees have many enemies – squirrels and deer, storms and disease. I like to see a wide variety of trees in a wood, including conifers, which are frowned on in current thinking as being mostly non-native. At present we are clearing an area of silver birch which will go to the sawmill as firewood for sale next winter. Over most of the site we will use a JCB to expose the mineral soil and encourage natural regeneration, which has worked well elsewhere, but in the short term we plan to add some Norway Spruce – Christmas trees – to give a financial return in six or seven years. Maybe a few elm as well, of the strain now being marketed as ‘disease resistant’.