My grandfathers tree
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Monckton Walk Farm in the Yorkshire Wolds is run by my 89-year-old Grandfather, Dr Robert Andrew Dunning. He lives in a cottage that together we converted from an old cattle shed. Next to the cottage grew a female ash tree so large it overlooked the 150 acres of farmland and from where, on a clear day,more
York Minster could be seen 25 miles away. Alas, the age of the tree began to show and its largest limb had died and started to rot. For the safety of my Grandfather and the cottage it became necessary to fell the great ash. I wanted my Grandfather’s tree to survive beyond its rooted life, to offer the ash an afterlife and celebrate the nature of the material within. I wanted the tree to remain integral to the wood and to maintain the story told by its 187 annual growth rings — its age, the climatic conditions in which it grew, the years of heavy rainfall or drought, even its geographical orientation. Together with my friend Jon Turnbull, we cut the tree at regular intervals from the top down, respecting natural divisions within the structure such as knots, branches and crotches. I cut the ash into 131 logs of average ‘furniture’ height suitable for what my Grandfather would call ‘general purpose’ use. Whether as stool, table, chair or log, today My Grandfather’s Tree survives as an ash tree, but with a new function and the start of a new history. And where she once stood, a second generation of young ash trees are fast emerging from her roots.