The Cloven Ash: a Retrospective

For many years, every walk along the path which skirts the edge of Silverdale Moss has been enlivened by an encounter with an old friend – The Cloven Ash.

June 2010.

Seen from its northern side it looked like a typical mature ash – magnificent, but nothing out of the ordinary.

But from the South, it was more obviously remarkable…

March 2009

…because of the cleft running through its middle.

March 2009.

These last two photos are from the first reference I can find to this tree on my blog, but even then I was making an intentional visit to it to see how it was getting on. I suspect that if I tried harder I could probably find earlier photos which document my relationship with this ash, but those pictures, if they exist, are harder to find because it was only in March 2009 that I started to think of it as ‘The Cloven Ash’, and call it that on the blog, which makes it easy to search for. The name in itself is probably part of the reason that the tree occupies a place in my affections – it always reminds me of Italo Calvino’s novella ‘The Cloven Viscount’ (which I probably had in mind when I coined the soubriquet). It’s a book that I love, and that I’ve read many times, along with its companions ‘The Baron In The Trees’ and ‘The Non-Existent Knight’ which form Calvino’s ‘Our Ancestors’ trilogy.

January 2010.

Every time I walked past the Ash I would convince myself that the cleft had grown slightly, and then decide that perhaps it hadn’t. I could never make up my mind.

June 2010.

February 2011. New fence!

Looking at the photos now: it was growing wasn’t it, a least a little?

On windy days, the two halves of the tree would sway slightly together and apart in a steady rhythm. I suppose I was rubber-necking really: continually revisiting the site of a potential accident.

And then this October just gone, on the way back from Beetham Fell with Our Camping Friends I was shocked to discover not only that…


October 2014.

…half of the tree had gone…


…but also that the fallen wood had been cut down in size a little and tidied up and that the sawn logs were covered in moss, suggesting that it had been down for quite some time. I suppose the fact that I’d missed that reflects the relative infrequency of my local walks of late.

And then, as I returned home from our lunch at The Ship in Sandside, a further outrage…


…the other half had also toppled. The Cloven Ash is no-more!


The dry-stone wall hadn’t come very well out of the disagreement.


Although, I have, in a way, been gleefully anticipating the collapse of this tree and all of the destructive potential that implied, since I first noticed the fault line which ran through it, I am now, of course, very sad to see its demise.

I suppose I should greet the oyster mushrooms which had already sprouted from the base of the exposed trunk as cheerful messengers of regeneration and rebirth, like fungal Hare Krishnas . Only more grey.


You can find references, and/or photographs of or about the Cloven Ash on older posts here.

The Cloven Ash: a Retrospective

On the Hoof

Three walks to report on. The first, late on Saturday afternoon, with friends small and large, from the Leighton Moss car park to Trowbarrow quarry and back via the golf course. Very much an amble this one with lots of opportunities for scrambling on the rocks and boulders of the Trough for the kids.

One surprise – this orange ladybird, halyzia 16-guttata, on a tree trunk on the edge of the quarry. It seems that this type of ladybird has become more common in the UK as it has begun to live on sycamore and ash. At this time of year ladybirds are usually dormant, so what this one was up to (not much whilst we watched) I’m not sure. Looking for information on ladybirds I found this helpful site.

 Trowbarrow Quarry.

Sunday afternoon’s walk took me past an old friend – the Cloven Ash. I think the gap is getting wider. But I might be wrong. We’d come via Eaves Wood and Haweswater and were now following the trough again (although a little further north). We followed it to this bridge – where R and S examined a geocache. R has placed a new geocache nearby, part of a series on or near the parish boundary which he is organising to celebrate the village bicentenary.

From the new geocache, we took a peek at the remnants of Coldwell Limeworks. Around the ruin there has been lots of tree-felling – R thinks that it’s the RSPB removing sycamores. Bad news for orange ladybirds! I knew that the RSPB had bought Silverdale Moss, but not that they owned this woodland too.

Yesterday after work, I left the railway station in the wrong direction for home, and took a turn instead around Leighton Moss. I was hoping to catch the starling roost. I only saw the starlings briefly. But for about 10 minutes, I watched them wheeling in a huge cloud, about 100 yards away across the reed-beds. They’re fantastic to watch, but also, as I watched, many of the birds seemed to alight on the reeds for a moment – the sound they made as they all lifted into the air again was amazing. Finally the original cloud of birds was joined by a zeppelin of starlings from the north, and moments later by a long worm from the south and the new larger host sped away westward across the moss and were lost to view.

On the Hoof