The unique collection, called ‘æsc‘ (Old English, meaning ash tree), is the work of Exeter-based photographic artist Robert Darch. The photos have been commissioned by two local leading charities, Devon Wildlife Trust and Beaford Arts.
æsc contains 122 images captured in a range of Devon’s urban and rural landscapes over the past year. Many show the dramatic moments in which mature ash trees – some several hundreds years old – were felled after succumbing to the deadly fungal disease, ash dieback.
It has been estimated that Devon is set to lose 90% of its 1.9 million ash trees to ash dieback. The disease was first detected in the UK in 2012. The exhibition depicts this loss, but also documents the efforts of local communities as they have worked to restore Devon’s lost trees through the planting of other native species including oaks, rowans and crab apples in the gaps left by disappearing ash.
Robert Darch is an Associate Lecturer in Photography at the University of Plymouth. His work has been featured in publications including The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. Robert Darch said:
“I had heard of ash dieback before working on this project, but had in no way comprehended the scale and amount of trees that will be affected. It has been a really difficult year, working in the shadow of Covid and witnessing so many ash trees being felled, but seeing the work being done by Devon Wildlife Trust in very difficult times replanting native species has been really inspiring. It has been an honour and privilege to be making work for the Beaford archive, which is an invaluable record of time and place in Devon.”