With the unwelcome arrival of ash die-back last year, it is with some apprehension that I have been watching the unfurling of the hedgerow ashes at the meadows. So far, so good - the fresh green leaves seem to be emerging from the dark buds with their usual grace. However, it is really too early to tell and I will be keeping a watchful eye in coming months and years.
An unexpected benefit of this need for careful observation, is that it has encouraged me to look much more closely at a tree which is so familiar I often hardly give it a second thought - except to ponder whether we are in for a 'splash or a soak' depending on whether the ash or the oak comes into leaf first and whether it will be a good or bad hay year! (The spring has been so late and condensed this year the two trees seem to be pretty much neck and neck at the moment).
I am not sure I have ever before paused to look so closely at the ash and to catch a photograph of it just as the ash keys are beginning to form. I was really struck by the almost translucent 'toffee apple' brown of the keys, contrasting dramatically with dark bud scales and vibrant new green leaves.
Let's hope that somewhere in the many bunches of ash keys now forming - there is some natural resistance to ash die-back - that at least some of the keys will unlock a future for the ash.