Ancient Ash in Eden Project

Ash trees at the Long Med Stone Circle, Cumbria. Photo: 2013 E. R. Wilson.


The Ancient Ash in Eden Project ran from 2013-2014. It was developed in repsonse to the introduction and spread of ash dieback disease (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) to the UK. It was one of the first citizen science projects dedicated to forest health. This page provides information about the project and resources.

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Project Background

Ash dieback disease (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) is among several diseases of trees that have recently been introduced to Britain. Ash dieback is a fungal pathogen that was first identified here in 2012 . It spread rapidly throughout the country over the next few years. It remains a significant threat to individual ash trees, woodland ecosystems where ash is an important component, and the character of the rural landscape across much of Britain.

In Cumbria, we have a number of significant ash populations; ash trees in ancient woodlands found in the isolated valleys and those associated with historic farming systems of the region. Ash trees mark field boundaries, river courses, roadsides, and are also an important feature in many gardens and parks. In fact, ash trees are to be found almost everywhere, being the most important tree in the landscape of Cumbria, outside enclosed woodlands. However, there are many fine, ancient specimens not yet fully recognised, a reality that was addressed by the Ancient Ash in Eden Project. Conservation of these trees is an important element in managing and sustaining the special character of Eden and North-East Cumbria.

We need to recognise that our ash trees are a unique resource of regional, national and international significance, both in terms of our natural history and cultural heritage.

For more information on ash trees and ash dieback disease, follow this link here.

This fine old ash tree is typical of many specimens to be found around the landscape of Eden District, in Cumbria. These trees mark field boundaries, river courses, roadsides, and parklands. Ash trees are to be found almost everywhere, being the most important tree in the landscape of Cumbria, outside enclosed woodlands. Photo: Edward Wilson 2013
This fine old ash tree is typical of many specimens to be found around Eden District, in Cumbria. Conservation of these trees is important in terms of their ecological and biodiversty values, but also as a special feature in the cultural landscape. Photo: Edward Wilson 2013

Project Aims and Objectives

We had two main aims for the project. First, to raise awareness of ash trees in our communities and landscape, and help promote active engagement with tree and nature conservation. Second, to provide one of the first training programmes dedicated to identifying and monitoring ash dieback and other tree health problems, based on “citizen science” and community engagement and linking to an established Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) Tree Health Survey project.

We consulted with experts at OPAL, Forest Research and other organisations to help develop the course content and workshop resources.

 Outcomes from Project

  • Our target was to deliver 6 one-day sessions
  • The target number was 15 people per session, with the aim of training a minimum of 75 “ash tree buddies” in Eden and Cumbria.
  • Participants learned about the historical, cultural and economic significance of ash trees in Eden
  • Participants were able to identify ash trees potentially infected with the ash dieback disease
  • Participants gained experience and confidence in implementing the required protocols for reporting and monitoring trees of concern
  • Participants became champions for tree health, able to communicate widely within the community on the value and importance of ash and other trees to our cultural landscape.
  • Ash trees in Eden was one of the first projects in the UK to promote a community-trained tree buddy scheme, which was a model for other forest health issues and in other regions of the UK.

Workshop Learning Objectives

 By the end of the one-day workshop participants will:

  1. Understand the significance of ash trees in Eden
  2. Be able to identify ash trees, young, old and ancient
  3. Know the signs and symptoms of the ash dieback disease
  4. Understand and be able to communicate with the public on the protocols for identifying, managing and reporting infected trees and sites.

Workshop Outline

The course had 6 hours of contact time between trainers and participants. Approximately 50% indoors, 50% outdoor sessions. All the course material and resources were provided, including the OPAL Tree Health Survey packs, which participants were able to take home so they could continue to develop their skills and experience in tree health surveys. As part of the training for the OPAL Tree Health Survey we looked at a number of other pests and diseases of ash, and also pests and diseases of oak and horse chestnut.

Classroom Session (Morming)

Short lecture sessions and practical demonstrations to include:

  1. Introduction and Welcome
  2. History/cultural significance of ash trees in Eden and Cumbria
  3. Biology of ash trees
  4. Practical session 1: Identifying ash trees
  5. Ash dieback disease
  6. Practical session 2: Identifying ash dieback
  7. Sampling, lab work and diagnosis
  8. Reporting disease, monitoring and record keeping
  9. Next steps – How sites are managed and what information to communicate with woodland owners

Fieldwork Session (Afternoon)

  1. Field trip to young broadleaf woodlands
  2. Identifying and assessing mature and ancient ash trees
  3. Practical exercise 1: undertaking a tree health assessment of a mature ash tree
  4. Practical exercise 2: developing the monitoring system

 Wrap-up Session (indoors)

  1. Input data collected to the OPAL database (using computers provided)
  2. Questions and feedback discussion
  3. Close

Please note: details of the programme are subject to amendment, based on feedback and weather conditions.

At the conclusion of the course, participants were provided with the following information and resources:

  1. Certificate of Attendance
  2. Workshop booklet
  3. Templates and worksheets for monitoring and reporting tree status
  4. Access to online resources and lecture material (to be archived on a host website)
  5. Contact information for further resources and support

Workshop Venue and Dates

There were 6 workshops in the series. They were delivered at three locations in Cumbria. The first four workshops (Workshops 1-4) were based at Lowther Castle, near Penrith, Cumbria. Workshop 5 took place in Ambleside, Cumbria, at the request of Ambleside Natural History Society. Workshop 6 took place in Alston, Cumbria.

The workshops were free to attend. Participants were asked to bring you lunch, an afternoon snack and appropriate clothing. At Lowther Castle there was a cafe at the workshop venue that served a range of hot and cold snacks, and light meals.  

We provided handouts and all the resource material need to complete the tree health training.

The workshops were designed to be fun, informative and interactive.

Each workshop lasted from 0930-1630, and included both indoor and outdoor sessions.

  • Workshop 1. Saturday, 5 October 2013, Lowther Castle, Cumbria
  • Workshop 2. Saturday, 31 May 2014, Lowther Castle, Cumbria
  • Workshop 3. Saturday, 14 June 2014, Lowther Castle, Cumbria
  • Workshop 4. Saturday, 28 June 2014, Lowther Castle, Cumbria 
  • Workshop 5. Tuesday, 8 July 2014, Ambleside, Cumbria
  • Workshop 6. Sunday, 20 July 2014, Alston, Cumbria.

Workshop Leaders

The workshops were led by Dr Dani Leslie and Ted Wilson. Dani and Ted are acknowledged experts in forest science, conservation and rural development. They have many years experience organising and delivering community-based forestry and conservation projects, and workshops.


‘Eden’s Ash Tree Trail’ (21 June 2014) describes the history, ecology and cultural significance of ash trees in Eden District, Cumbria, England. Why has Ash been used in medicine, magic and folklore throughout the ages? Where are Eden’s Ancient Ash trees to be found? Open the cover and embark on a journey of discovery… The book was produced as an output from the Heritage Lottery-funded project ‘Ancient Ash Trees in Eden’, which has the aim of identifying notable ash trees in the Eden locality and delivering a series of tree health workshops linked to the threat from ash dieback disease (Chalara fraxinea).

Cover for Eden's Ancient Ash Tree Trail (2014)
Cover for Eden’s Ancient Ash Tree Trail (2014).
Click on the cover image to link with our ResearchGate archive and to download your own copy of the book.

Full citation: Leslie, D., E. Wilson and M. Reid. 2014, Eden’s Ancient Ash Tree Trail. E-book. Heart of Eden Development Trust/Silviculture Research International. 34 p. URL:’s_Ancient_Ash_Tree_Trail Published: 21 June 2014.

Press Coverage for the Project

  • Ash Dieback – Cumbria 24, 23 Sept 2013
  • Ash Dieback – Cumbria Crack, 22 Sept 2013
  • Ash in Eden – Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, 28 Sept 2013 (page 10) [download pdf]
  • Ash in Eden – News and Star, 25 Sept 2013 (page 3) [download pdf]

Links and Further Information

This project is delivered by Heart of Eden Development Trust and Silviculture Research International. The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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Page Updated: 29 June 2014