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Threat to popular UK tree explored by academic who overcame adversity to complete book

The cultural significance of the ash tree and the effect of it disappearing from the British landscape is explored in a new book by a Leeds Beckett academic.

Picture of Lisa Samson

Lisa Samson

Lisa Samson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities, has written Epitaph for the Ash over a four-year period and will launch the book at an event in Waterstones, Leeds, in April.

The book was inspired by Lisa’s uncle, who was a writer and naturalist, and looks at the ash tree’s ongoing fight for survival from Ash Dieback – a disease travelling to the UK from mainland Europe.

Lisa, who is a Senior Lecturer in Academic Writing, said: This book is a rallying cry for people to make the most of the ash tree while we still have them.

Epitaph for the Ash was supposed to be published in 2014, but in September 2013 l was diagnosed with a large Acoustic Neuroma - a benign brain tumour.

“Fortunately, l had already done a lot of the research for the book but l needed to keep abreast of what was happening. My operation and consequent recovery are included in the book, as l found that there were personal resonances of what was happening to me.

Epitaph for the Ash book cover

“There were days when I could only write one sentence but it gave me a sense of achievement just to do that. The book documents some of the changes I went through, but, like ash trees, I will never be the same again.”

The first chapter is set in the lowlands of Norfolk, before venturing to the northern outskirts of the British Isles. Each chapter is set in a different county as Lisa travels across the country documenting the advance of Ash Dieback.

This book is important because it shows how deep people's connection to trees goes and raises awareness of what will happen to them,” added Lisa.

“The book will appeal both to people who prefer fiction and non-fiction, because it is about real people and places, but uses the techniques of fiction, all the literary devices that make a book compelling.”

Epitaph for the Ash is being published by 4th Estate.

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