An old weather-forecasting adage goes: "Oak before Ash, we're in for a splash. Ash before Oak, we're in for a soak". It's too early for me to tell you what kind of Summer we're likely to have. Anyway every year I look but then forget which way round it was!
Looking at today's largely bare Yorkshire Dales, it's hard to imagine that woodland once covered much of the hills. There are some good woodlands left - Hackfall, Freeholders Wood in Wensleydale and on the Bolton Abbey Estate. Ash woodland is the most widespread. Before felling there were more oak trees but not so many remain.
The majestic oak I walk past several times a day with my dogs feels like a family friend - strong, reliable, kindly and smiling down on us all.
Oaks are incredibly valuable as a wildlife habitat: one single oak tree can support up to 284 species of insects - and there are hundred of different species of oak in England.
Watching the oak tree through the seasons never fails to make me feel more optimistic and reassured - no matter how bad life might be, the oak tree keeps growing and creating new life. It's resilient and uncomplaining, always there. I don't quite know why I feel the need to describe its personality but I'd say if it had a voice, it would be deep and always reasonable, offering good advice (only when asked), always ready to comfort and with a dry wit.
The ash tree feels a bit more fanciful, it's upper branches slightly less substantial and ready with a flamboyant flourish when it's time for its keys to grow and wave in the breeze. A bit, 'hello, I'm here. Look at me!'
We really need trees in our lives. We need them because they're up-lifting and beautiful. We need them because they help combat climate change by removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. We need them because they help stop soil erosion and reduce flooding. There's an easy way to help plant trees in the Yorkshire Dales, and name them after loved ones if you wish - Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust have so far planted around £1.4 million trees in the Dales. Take a look at their website to see how you can plant a tree as a gift or in memory of some-one, or just because you want to talk to a tree.