Alder Trees

In my parents’ garden, there were lots of alder planted up against the fence toward the bicycle path behind our garden. The were 3-4 metres high at the time and had multiple stems and sticky leaves which I wasn’t always so keen on touching – my fingers would glue together afterwards. My brother and I persuaded my mum to give us chocolate biscuits in a basket and we would go on a picnic – often interrupted by King, our lassie dog. One time we even talked her into serving chips and bangers, Danish red ones, on her best plates, complete with camping light and table cloth on top of the concrete well cover…

The Alder plays a big role in Danish folklore and Alder Nymphs were said to sing and dance to young men on foggy nights, causing them to never come home again as they would too late discover that the girls were not who they said they were. As alder trees often grow in wet areas and can survive even with their roots completely under water there was a real risk of drowning associated with these trees.

The Danish word for Alder, El, is one of the oldest words in our language and is of the same origin as Elm which means exactly the same in both Danish and English. Names of trees are often short and some of the most stable words in a language – that’s a comforting fact somehow.

Alder wood isn’t very durable apart from under water where it will turn pitch black but last longer than any other type of wood and it has been used for bridge pillars etc. It is also used for smoking and making charcoal.

Alder has special root nodules around which certain bacteria live which produce nitrogen for the tree in return for sugar. This process makes alder really good at improving soil fertility. That’s kinda neat.

On my table, I have a plant that a friend gave to me. It’s in a glass pot and has a tiny wooden mushroom sticking up from it. Around it, he’s tied some female catkins of alder. They look sort of like cones, but they’re not really. These woody catkins are different from the male catkins and also the catkins of birch, all of which disintegrate after they have served their purpose.


Maybe tomorrow, I can tell you some random stuff about The Birch as both of these trees are in the Betulaceae family along with Hazels, Hornbeams and Ironwoods. You see, birches are some of my favourite trees and I’m sure you can’t wait to find out why…

Red Squirrel



In the UK, unfortunately the red squirrel is now relatively rare, being out-competed by the grey squirrel who feeds more effectively and also carries the squirrel poxvirus which doesn’t seem to affect the greys but is lethal to the reds.

Conservation work is ongoing to save the red squirrel for instance by providing better habitats. One of the places involved in this work, hosting around 50 percent of the native UK squirrel population is Kielder Water & Forest Park

I’d like to visit that place some time and if I had the option to ask them some of my student question that would be great. Maybe I should do my next project on squirrels?

How do you take your tree?

Yes, you read that correctly. I’d like to know what kind of forest appeals to you. If you have a minute to answer my survey, I’d really appreciate it.

It has 4 simple tick boxes and 2 comment fields and should take maybe 3 minutes to complete.

It is a bit of an aside to my project on Ash trees.

Ash Leaf

Ash Leaf

Communicating Heritage

Starting to do some proper work on my extra semester project about Ash trees. I’ve interviewed a biologist about the cloning of resistant ash trees and about the importance of ash for biodiversity – I spoke to a Danish biologist and she was very helpful.

Today, I’ve been having a correspondence with the Norse faith society ‘Forn Sidr’ who have explained what the ash tree means to them mythologically and symbolically and I learned some new things that I will certainly need.

I’ve been accumulating a lot of material from the Danish Naturstyrelsen and from Forestry Commission and have obtained a contact that I might use to shed a little more light on the UK side of things.

I am struggling a little to get hold of someone with a knowledge of Celtic tradition and faith and how ash is perceived through their lens. I can read a lot about it online but there are a few question I would like to have the opportunity to ask. Don’t suppose any of you know someone with a link to Celtic tradition?

The idea is then to find out how to communicate the situation with Ash Dieback to different target groups depending on their level of interest and their focus, testing what can be done with the direct and peripheral routes, suggesting a couple of campaigns to promote knowledge about Ash.

Otherwise, doing the finishing bits of the project on female body-image and life modelling and naturism. My partner on that project is a little stuck, she says, so I will need to try and offer some coaching tomorrow and see if we can get her unstuck. She’s writing things on the cultural differences in body-ideals and how advertisements play a role in what ideals young women adopt.

Biodiversity and Cultural and Spiritual Value of Ash

In recent years, many Ash trees have been attacked by Chalara, resulting in Ash Dieback expected to result in a loss of 95 percent of Ash trees over the next 15 years. Work is ongoing to find and cultivate resistant Ash trees but in the medium term, lots of insects, mosses and lichen who only live on Ash trees will be threatened. Ash is a minor element of most forests, but they play a vital role in riparian zones where little else will grow. Ash trees allow much light through their canopy, resulting in diverse forests with many levels of growth in the under forest.

Ash also plays an important role in the heritage of Norse and Celtic populations, linking to mythology and folklore, from Yggdrasil to hurleys and floor boards.

I am going to research the importance of Ash and will see if I can identify some tools already used to assess cultural and recreational value, biodiversity and apply them to the case of Ash and see if I can determine a way to speak about the values we lose due to Ash dieback.

Ash Tree

Ash Tree