'ODE TO THE ASH'
'Ode to the Ash', by Cameron Short, was created in response to the plight of Britain's 'Venus of the woods'...
"On hearing for the first time about Ash Dieback, I felt compelled to celebrate this ancient, native tree - not just for its graceful lines, but for its usefulness over the ages too. Given the tree's uncertain future, it stands at a crossroads. Around it are figures from folklore and times past: a herdsman who carries an ash stick to keep the Evil Eye away from his stock, a country girl who, hoping to meet her true love, keeps an 'even ash' (a leaf with an equal number of leaflets on either side) in her glove, and a woodsman who kneels reverently beneath the tree. There is also a 'gentleman of the road' - a wanderer - who carefully draws around a basking adder with his ash staff (rural folk believed that a circle drawn around a serpent with an ash stick would compel it to stay within the circle, as the ash was inimical to snakes). There is a majestic wagon and a broken-down wheelbarrow too because, as William Cobbett once wrote: 'We could not well have a wagon, a cart, a coach or a wheelbarrow, a plough, a harrow, a spade, an axe or a hammer, if we had no ash.' On the wagon's bed sits a lashed-down throne - ash timber was sometimes used 'to support the thighs of kings'. There is a young coppice worker striding along, an ash pole slung over his shoulder and a billhook in his hand (the handle of which would have been fashioned from ash due to the timber's great strength and elasticity). There is a father, his young son with a club foot riding piggyback, walking towards the tree - ash trees were often cleft asunder by country folk, and their sick children passed through the apertures (held open by wedges) in the hope that such a process would cure them."