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A is for Ash

Updated: May 4, 2021

Welcome volunteers, to my A-Z of you and all the wildlife that you have helped and are passionate about. 

The Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group (MWHG) have volunteers that have worked with us for over 10 years and volunteers that want to get started but have been stalled by COVID-19. I didn’t want to mention THAT word, but I have. I won’t do it again! There are other reasons that you and I got involved in volunteering. I only wish, for sanity sake, that we could be beavering away on a wet, windy, muddy day to forget our present plight!

So, back to A. Before I write about the Ash tree, one of our first volunteering groups was, in fact, the ASHE group. Each letter stands for a local parish or hamlet of the Manhood Peninsula (Almodington, Sidlesham, Highleigh, Earnley). The group was formed just over 12 years ago after Sarah Hughes, Chichester District Council‘s Wildlife Officer, gave a talk at the Sidlesham church hall in order to generate interest and drum up volunteers.

In the earlier years, work concentrated on restoring rural ponds, mainly Morgan’s, Bushell’s, and Haydon’s pond in Almodington and Florence pond in Church Farm road, Sidlesham. The group did some valuable pond surveys, water vole surveys (as part of the Water Vole Project) and moth surveys (during the summer months). Bat surveys were also undertaken in the early years with a few very late evenings, as bats didn’t oblige the volunteers with an appearance until after dusk!  

Although a small group, at first, the ASHE group definitely set the scene for more work to follow. I have been lucky enough to meet and work with this group and the bigger group that followed with our next project (the FLOW Project). What a lovely bunch of people and what hard workers! Some of them happy to wade about in the odd pond or two (and in fact, parted from their welly boots in the pond silt on many an occasion!). 

Ash tree during winter, in Sidlesham

Ash tree in Sidlesham, by Alex Ainge

My picture of the Ash tree is very apt as it was taken in Sidlesham a couple of weeks’ ago. What a majestic beauty with it’s black sticky buds reaching for the sun. Such a shame to think that so many of these beauties have succumbed to Ash dieback. Ash dieback is a chronic fungal infection that is affecting the ash population across Europe and the UK. The pathogen – Hymenoscyphus fraxineus  – attacks the internal water transport systems of trees.

An infected tree is noticeable for its loss of leaves, wilting, lesions in the bark and stems of trees, and discolouration of the bark. However, a recent study by scientists have shown that some Ash trees have developed resistance to the disease. There is hope for this wonderful tree, after all.  

Read Alex’s previous A-Z post, here.


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