Monthly Archives: May 2017

Splash not soak; not ash but oak

Last Saturday’s Nature Notes by Melissa Harrison in the Times shed further light on the Ash / Oak leaf mystery that we’ve commented on recently.  Harrison noted that ash trees in Cumbria were weeks behind the oaks with many, from a distance, looking dead.  She then adds:

“ That’s no surprise, as ashes are much more shallow-rooted than oaks with their deep tap roots. It’s been a dry winter, and a dry spring too, and while oaks have been able to draw up enough water to produce their leaves, the ash trees, rooted in drier surface soil, have had far less to work with.”

Another reason, then, to augment our understanding.   Harrison also says this:

“Surely the rhyme is descriptive, rather than predictive, the relative leafing of the two trees indicative of the preceding atmospheric conditions, rather than those to come.”

Whilst this seems right, it surely also means that those atmospheric conditions (how wet has it been?) will be somewhat predictive of the timing of leaves appearing on the two trees – although the somewhat seems important.

If so, perhaps we now need a new rhyme. Rather than:

“Oak before ash, we’re in for a splash; ash before oak, we’re in for a soak”,

… should it be:

“Splash not soak; not ash but oak”

Somehow, we doubt this will catch on.

Posted in: Latest News |

Bristol – Bath Festival of Nature

What is said to be the UKs largest celebration of the natural world is back.  Featuring more than 100 organisations, over three weekends.  The organisers say:

Join us on a wildlife adventure of discovery as we sail down the river from Bristol to Bath – with amazing activities, live music, theatre, walks, and films!  

The programme is here.
Posted in: Latest News |

Trashconverter vans on the move

Litter in forests is being targeted by a Trashconverter van.

This anti-litter initiative is looking to keep UK’s forest’s green by enabling forest-goers to trade in their rubbish for food, flowers and hot drinks.  A roaming ‘Trashconverter’ van has been travelling through the Forest of Dean as part of a campaign to highlight the UK’s growing forest litter problem.


Posted in: Latest News |

An update on Oak and Ash; Soak and Splash

According to the Field Studies Council, these days we don’t usually see Ash trees coming into leaf before Oak trees do.  Using data from the Nature’s Calendar website, the FSC reports that, since 2000, there have only been two years (2010 & 2013) when Ash trees came into leaf before Oak trees did.  There was one year when it was a dead heat (2006).

The FSC goes on:

In the mid to late 1700’s Robert Marsham (sometimes called the Father of Phenology) recorded the timing of spring events, such as the bud burst of common trees, on his estate in Norfolk. In those days it was quite common for Ash trees to come into leaf before Oak trees (1751, 1769, 1778, 1783, 1785, 1786 & 1788) or for the two events to be noted on the same day (1760, 1765, 1766 & 1781). So what’s changed?

One thing that has changed is that, as a result of man-made climate change, springs tend to be warmer now.  The average temperature (Jan – Apr) for the years 1751 – 1787 was 4.7°C, for the years 2000 – 2015 it was 6.3°C.  The only two recent years when Ash came into leaf earliest stand out as ones with cold, late springs. You might remember the long cold winter of 2010 and how the spring of 2013 didn’t seem to start until late April. So how does temperature affect the timing of bud burst in these two tree species?

We can use data from the Met Office’s Hadley Centre to look at this.  The timing of bud burst in Oak is very strongly correlated with temperature.  In warm springs the Oak leaves will burst much earlier than they do in cold springs.  In fact for every extra degree of warmth they come into leaf about 6 days earlier.  The relationship between the timing of bud burst of Ash trees and temperature is much weaker.  So as springs get warmer the Oaks come into leaf earlier and earlier.  Ash trees do too, but not as quickly as do the oaks – they’re being left behind.  So now it’s only in a cold spring that we are likely to see “Ash before Oak”.  As to the whether we get a “splash” or a “soak” well that’s another story altogether.

Indeed it is.  All this was written in 2016, and 2017 certainly wasn’t a cold spring so the early oak makes sense.  But this doesn’t quite explain the time lag this year.

NB, Wharton Trees adds this:

“Both tree species come into leaf around the same time of year – between late March and May.  Oak trees are temperature sensitive; while Ash are influenced by the number of daylight hours they receive.  If spring arrives early with high temperatures in February and March, Oak trees are likely to leaf first.  However, if cold conditions persist into April, Ash will have the advantage (Weather Channel, 2012).”

It’s worth a look at the FSC website on all this because of the graphs it contains.


Posted in: Latest News | Tagged |

Oak or Ash: Soak or Splash

The old folk tale has it that:

  • Ash before oak – we’re in for a soak (that is, yet another wet summer)
  • Oak before ash – we’re (only) in for a splash (that is, not as wet a summer as it might have been)

Well, whatever the truth of all this, it’s enough for me to keep as eye on the oak and the ash to see which comes into leaf first.  Then, typically, I forget about it before summer comes and so never really know whether the prediction was up to much.

Not this year, though.  The ash is so far behind the oak where I live (and have visited recently) that it seems that we’re in for a dry summer (relatively speaking).  And the time lag is so pronounced that I’m unlikely to forget it this time.  In fact, it’s so great that it has prompted me to wonder …

[i] is this a local effect or more widespread?

[ii] it is because of the dry winter and spring we have had?

[iii] is it related to ash dieback, or some other noxious pest I’ve not yet heard of yet?

[iv] is it to do with Brexit!

Does anyone know?

Posted in: Latest News | Tagged |

Changes to planning policy

The woodland Trust has highlighted a number of issues in the current planning policy white paper.

The Trust says:

“Our ancient woods and trees are exceptional habitats. Yet currently, they are not effectively protected from development.  The new Housing White Paper – called ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ – sets out the Government’s aims to help reform the housing market and increase the supply of new homes in England. It includes the very welcome intention to improve the protection given to ancient woods and trees, by adding them to a list of the nation’s assets that should be explicitly protected from development.  This is an important step towards stronger protection. But it will only make an impact if the specific planning policy relating to ancient woodland is updated too.

The Trust says that the proposals in the Housing White Paper haven’t just come out of nowhere; rather, they’re the result of years of campaigning by thousands of our supporters.  The website has an informative timeline infographic that shows ups and downs (wins and losses) over recent years.

The Trust says that the changes in the White Paper will lead to amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out planning policy in England, and asks us to help ensure those changes lead to effective protection for ancient woods and trees.  A public consultation closed on May 2nd.

Posted in: Latest News, Safeguarding our Trees | Tagged |

More ancient woodland threatened By HS2

The Woodland Trust website has a long feature on how the second phase of HS2 threatens old woods in the north of England.

This begins:

“Our analysis of route proposals for Phase 2a and 2b of HS2 shows that the northern section of the route will impact a minimum of 24 irreplaceable ancient woods. Phase 1 of the controversial high speed line was granted Royal Assent in February with a final total of 63 ancient woods condemned to suffer loss or damage.

Eleven woods are threatened with direct loss and a further 13 are close enough to be threatened by damaging secondary effects including noise, dust and lighting. Examples include Hancock’s Bank near Altrincham, and Coroners Wood near Partington, both in Cheshire, New Farm Wood near Bulwell in Nottinghamshire and Whitmore Wood, Whitmore Heath in Staffordshire. All are carpeted with bluebells at this time of year.

The Trust’s CEO, Beccy Speight, said:

“Any loss or damage to ancient woodland is a disaster for the natural environment, particularly when you consider how little we have left.  Just 2% of the UK’s land area is made up of these precious and irreplaceable habitats, so for large infrastructure projects like HS2 to be riding roughshod over them, rather than setting an example to avoid them, is totally unacceptable.  With the trail of destruction HS2 Ltd will cause to ancient woodland, it will never be able to call this project ‘green’ – so far, it’s been an absolute disgrace.  HS2 Ltd will say it’s planting millions of trees along the route – that’s all well and good, but no amount of new trees can ever recreate ancient woodland.”

There have been some successes in the campaign to protect ancient woods from the railway, and the article provides details.

Posted in: Latest News |

The Tree Charter Principles

The 6th of November 2017 is the 800th anniversary of the influential 1217 Charter of the Forest.  To mark this, the Woodland Trust is launching the Charter for Trees, Woods and People.  It says that the people of the UK have a right to the benefits brought by trees and woods, and that the new charter will recognise, celebrate and protect this right.  We can all be a part of this historic moment by signing the Charter to show your support for its principles.  The Trust will plant a tree in the UK for everyone who signs up.

The 10 principles are:

Thriving habitats for diverse species

Urban and rural landscapes should have a rich diversity of trees, hedges and woods to provide homes, food and safe routes for our native wildlife. We want to make sure future generations can enjoy the animals, birds, insects, plants and fungi that depend upon diverse habitats.

Planting for the future

As the population of the UK expands, we need more forests, woods, street trees, hedges and individual trees across the landscape. We want all planting to be environmentally and economically sustainable with the future needs of local people and wildlife in mind. We need to use more timber in construction to build better quality homes faster and with a lower carbon footprint.

Celebrating the cultural impact of trees

Trees, woods and forests have shaped who we are. They are woven into our art, literature, folklore, place names and traditions. It’s our responsibility to preserve and nurture this rich heritage for future generations.

A thriving forestry sector that delivers for the UK

We want forestry in the UK to be more visible, understood and supported so that it can achieve its huge potential and provide jobs, forest products, environmental benefits and economic opportunities for all.

Careers in woodland management, arboriculture and the timber supply chain should be attractive choices and provide development opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses.

Better protection for important trees and woods

Ancient woodland covers just 2% of the UK and there are currently more than 700 individual woods under threat from planning applications because sufficient protection is not in place.

We want stronger legal protection for trees and woods that have special cultural, scientific or historic significance to prevent the loss of precious and irreplaceable ecosystems and living monuments.

Enhancing new developments with trees

We want new residential areas and developments to be balanced with green infrastructure, making space for trees. Planning regulations should support the inclusion of trees as natural solutions to drainage, cooling, air quality and water purification. Long term management should also be considered from the beginning to allow trees to mature safely in urban spaces.

Understanding and using the natural health benefits of trees

Having trees nearby leads to improved childhood fitness, and evidence shows that people living in areas with high levels of greenery are 40% less likely to be overweight or obese. We believe that spending time among trees should be promoted as an essential part of a healthy physical and mental lifestyle and a key element of healthcare delivery.

Access to trees for everyone

Everyone should have access to trees irrespective of age, economic status, ethnicity or disability. Communities can be brought together in enjoying, celebrating and caring for the trees and woods in their neighbourhoods. Schoolchildren should be introduced to trees for learning, play and future careers.

Addressing threats to woods and trees through good management

Good management of our woods and trees is essential to ensure healthy habitats and economic sustainability. We believe that more woods should be better managed and woodland plans should aim for long term sustainability and be based upon evidence of threats and the latest projections of climate change. Ongoing research into the causes of threats and solutions should be better promoted.

Strengthening landscapes with woods and trees

Trees and woods capture carbon, lower flood risk, and supply us with timber, clean air, clean water, shade, shelter, recreation opportunities and homes for wildlife. We believe that the government must adopt policies and encourage new markets which reflect the value of these ecosystem services instead of taking them for granted.

Posted in: Latest News, Safeguarding our Trees | Tagged , |

The Bururi Forest Nature Reserve

IUCN’s latest Digest has a report on the Bururi Forest Nature Reserve in Burundi which was previously considered to be the link between heaven and earth. The ancient Burundians attached great importance to forest conservation, especially mountain forests. Several mountain forests were protected and used as a place of worship, while other forests served as a necropolis for Queen Mothers.

With an area of 3,300 ha, representing 0.1% of Burundi’s surface, the Bururi Forest Nature Reserve (RNFB) is the southernmost part of the forest system of the Congo-Nile Ridge. It is located in the Bururi commune, northwest of Bururi province, on a vast mountain that overlooks the urban center of Bururi.

This reserve is a reservoir of wildlife that still shelters a small population of chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, a species of great primates already in danger throughout Africa.  It is also designated as an important Bird Conservation Area in Burundi because it is home to an important avifauna, including rare and endemic species in the Albertin Rift region, namely Zoothera tanganyicae and Apalis argentea.  In addition to its important role in climate regulation, the RNFB is also providing other benefits, acting for example as a gigantic sponge absorbing water during the rainy season and releasing it during the dry season. Similarly, traditional healers harvest many medicinal species not encountered at the waterfront. It is also a carbon sink and plays an important role in climate regulation.

You can read more about it in the Protected Planet database.

Posted in: Latest News |