Regular readers will know that the authors have been searching for the best example of a venerable ash tree in Britain to feature in The New Sylva (read the story).
Yesterday we visited the chosen ash tree. It is growing in the ancient deer park at Moccas in Herefordshire, among dozens of other ancient oak and sweet chestnut trees. The site is owned by the Baunton Trust and managed by Natural England – please note that access is granted by permit only.
The ash tree at Moccas is an indeterminable age but certainly over 500 years old – unusually old for ash that does not have the longevity of oak or sweet chestnut. Its girth measures over 8m, and its huge bole is riddled with hollows and bulbous knolls hiding the stumps of long-lost branches. While the old crown has retrenched, a classic symptom of a veteran tree, several rapidly-growing new stems have arisen to ensure a healthy living crown.
Sarah Simblet had to work in the rain, which dampened the paper and softened the pencils she used to develop the composition. She made the most of the conditions by creating a drawing with bold lines to capture the features of the tree; treating the drawing as a first draft. Back at the studio she will start a new drawing based on this composition, working first in pencil before applying ink.
If Sarah is happy with the final drawing, and if the Editorial team at Bloomsbury think it appropriate, then it may appear as the frontispiece. Given the danger facing the species in Britain, from ash dieback Chalara fraxinea, we thought it particularly appropriate that the species be given this prominence in the book.
The authors are very grateful for the support and permissions granted by the Trustees of the Baunton Trust, and to Katherine Owen for submitting the tree as the candidate.