Phoenix rising from ashes

Green Light Trust Frithy Wood
Green Light Trust Frithy Wood
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Trees are a lot like old friends. Sometimes you only realise how much you loved them after they have died.

Trees are a lot like old friends. Sometimes you only realise how much you loved them after they have died.

The recent outbreak of Ash Dieback Disease has pushed recognition of the value of trees right up the political and public perception scales to an unprecedented level.

While the impact of the disease is tragic, with many old friends now at risk, there is also an opportunity to pause and think about why this has happened and if there is anything we can do to safeguard and nurture our other old friends.

Understanding the biology of the disease and how it spreads is at an early stage. It is clear that one cause has been through imports of young infected trees from nurseries in Europe. There is also speculation that the disease may have occurred due to windborne spores being blown across the Channel. If wind distribution proves to be a real factor then there may be little that we can realistically do to limit the spread of the disease.

But the importation of young trees is a very different story. The increasing globalisation of trade creates an easy means for diseases to spread rapidly across and between continents. It is rather ironic that seed collected in Britain from native ash trees is sent to nurseries in Europe to be grown on, and then re-imported for planting in woodlands back in Britain. This is all done in the name of economy. But is it really a false economy?

Instead of just thinking about cost-saving, perhaps we need to think more about nurturing the value of our old friends. Here at the Green Light Trust we are developing our Phoenix Project to do just that. We plan to work with our partners and empower local communities to respond to the disease outbreak – for example by identifying ash trees that show signs of resistance to the disease. Trees that might provide a seed source for future generations of disease-resistant ash trees. But more than that, we want to help people to understand why profound environmental changes are happening now and how they could play a part in reducing them.


Whilst our old friend ash is uppermost in our minds at the moment, there are other old friends including oak, chestnut and hazel that also deserve our care. So let’s think how we can help them, too.

If you’d like to support Green Light’s Phoenix Project, then please visit our website at