I enjoyed Dr Terry Mabbett’s article on rooks (Forestry Journal 309) as these somewhat quaint and gregarious birds are part of any young lad’s experience while growing up in the English countryside in the last 50 years. Rooks have this rather serious and dignified demeanour, and their somewhat monkish bearing, complete with bald spot, their noisy congregations and association with country churchyards (lately the only refuge of tall trees in arable contexts), all made them special.

As lads we used to wait until the unsteady and unskilled fledglings sought to fly the nest, often crashing into long grass or cornfields where they could be caught, for they made interesting pets. But they usually didn’t stay long, and after a week or two to gain strength, winged off to join their peers in the fields and woods.

This ecclesiastical connection also made them the subject of country superstition. “If the rooks leave the churchyard rookery, good luck will leave the village,” was voiced from time to time. What pestilence was brought to us by the demise of the elms goes unrecorded. Or does it?

We still have a rookery across the field with 20 nests this year, all of which were elegantly lined with dog hair from our two bearded collies, and collected by noisy raiders dressed in black, first thing in the morning.

After the elm, the ash. And the virus. Can fate be catching up with us?

Yours aye,

David Taylor

Rodley, Gloucs GL14 1QZ


SO maybe we will not be saying goodbye to all our ash trees. Your article in the May issue quotes 80 to 95 per cent survival rates in part of France as against the five per cent we were told to expect from the Danish experience.

Ever since Dutch elm disease in the 1970s, prophecies of doom have accompanied each tree disease which comes along. Horse chestnut, larch, oak; how come there are so many left alive?

Here in the National Forest, over the past few years the piles in front of our firewood processor have been supplemented by loads of pure ash from private and Forestry Commission plantations. We see some evidence in our own woods, but prefer to wait and see. My worst experience is in a field corner where I planted an elm before DED struck.

When that succumbed, I congratulated myself that I’d planted an ash as well. Now that one definitely looks like a goner. Fuelled by the media, we rush to destruction like the Gadarene swine. And it’s not just amongst the trees – dare I mention coronavirus?


John Blunt

The Staunton Harold Estate

Ashby de la Zouch LE65 1RT