Thursday, 8 January 2009

Yew trees

I had some very interesting comments on my last post which prompted me to search out these pictures that I took about ten years ago.

When I was a little girl I used to love listening to the stories my father told us, mainly about his childhood in the countryside around Ross on Wye in Herefordshire.
One such story was about a huge old Yew tree, so big that you could seat 10 people inside it.

I remember visiting the tree , which stands next to the church at Much Marcle (Herefordshire) I can even remember sitting inside the hollow trunk, I think I was about 3 or 4 years old.

I never forgot this story and as my fascination with trees grew, it was there, at the back of my mind. . .
The picture below shows my lovely mum and dear friend, Kitty, sitting inside the Yew. Ten people would be a little squashed but . . maybe?

It's difficult to date Yew trees accurately because of the way that they grow. All ancient yews are hollow , so ring dating is impossible.
They grow very slowly, the old tree at Totteridge, in Hertfordshire has a girth of 26 feet, the same as when it was measured in 1677.

With Mum standing next to the Much Marcle Yew, it's easy to see that it is huge, about 30 feet in girth, its' amazing canopy of branches, supported on a framework of iron.
The experts say that this wonder is between 2,500 and 3,000 years old!
Can you imagine that?
It was here all those centuries, a sacred tree , going back through time, before even the Celts.
If you ever visit this part of the world, this place is a 'must see'. The air positively tingles with atmosphere and it is possible to become quite lost in time.

There is much to see inside the church as well, not least the vision of loveliness pictured below.

May I introduce a lady from the 14th. century, believed to be Blanche Grandison. . .

In his book, the Kings England, Arthur Mee says of her, '. .a charming Lady, to whom we lose our heart. She lies in the chancel on a tomb rich as a throne. Her veil falls lightly on her pillow and the skirt of her tight- sleeved robe hangs in long, soft folds over the edge of the tomb . .'

Her nose and the little long - eared dog who hides in the folds of her skirt are a little damaged but I still think she is an excellent candidate for the 'Sleeping Beauty' award.

I've strayed off subject again. I wanted to tell you about another ancient Yew. This time, in Scotland, right in the centre, at Fortingall.

We are talking seriously huge and even more seriously old here. What is left of the tree is a sort of ring of trunk, still vibrant with growth, regenerating itself through the centuries. When it was measured in the 1700s its girth was 52 feet and it's age estimated recently as between 5500 and 7,000 years old.

That makes this truly remarkable tree one of the oldest living things on our planet (along with the Bristlecone Pines of California).

Mike and I made a pilgrimage here a few years ago and I can say honestly that even in the rain it is special. Nearby stand the church, Roman remains, Neolithic stones, all newcomers compared to this tree. Here's a quote from J. Edward Milner's 'The Tree Book'.

"I find Yew weird trees to say the least; whereas an Oak could be called Lord of the trees, provider at the heart of our cycle, the green man, nest and home, the Yew would seem to be God above trees, dark and aloof, 'other' to us, not of our cycle, or rather transcending it, the graveyard Yew. . . distilling the negative poisons of the soil and thrusting them outwards positively above ground. . . It is an ever present watcher, I think of the ancient Yew at Fortingall, there when the Megaliths were planted, the later Roman forts, the much later church, and it knowing all the time, being aware of something we can only feel. . ."

More magic i think . . .


Arija said...

I do wonder of the two little Yews we planted some ten years ago and are stilll only knee hight to a grasshopper, will someday a few thousand years hence become national treasures.
A lovely post Annette. Love the picture of your mother in the tree. Tales of rees told to toddlers can nurture an everlasting love of nature.

coral-seas said...

Eek! We have just planted 40 x 18 inch heigh yews along the side of the garden. I promised him they wouldn't take a life time to become a hedge!

Lovely trees in this and your previous posts, and oh! the sleeping beauty! The veil looks translucent. What a tallent to be able to carve wood to look that way.


lynne h said...

annette, i just about tripped over myself getting here when i saw that the post was about yew trees. i'm swooning here... look at this wondrous being! oh. my. goodness. i want to go and see these beautiful spirits, sit with them!!! what is their wood like? is it pale and hard? i'm wondering about this...

thank you, thank you...


Karen said...

What a wonderful post!
I love trees and these ancient old friends are amazing. I will definitely put a visit to these trees a 'must do' on my list.
I must admit to being a tree 'hugger' sometimes. Hubby thinks I'm a bit of a hippy when I do this :)
He might laugh, but I can definitely feel energy coming from them.
I 've got my children into doing it now.:)

femminismo said...

I will absolutely come see these one day! How can I not after finding out all this wonderful information. (Right now, however, I'm closer to the bristlecone pines in California.)I began writing a book about a "Sleeping Lady" some years ago and I have never finished it. Perhaps a trip to this inspirational place might inspire me. Thanks for the spot on your sidebar! :) jeanne in Oregon

annette emms said...

Arija - thank you. I know how you love trees, and to have planted Yews is a real gift to your grandchildren.

Coral - Seas - Your Yew hedge will grow quite well, I'm sure. It's only when the trees reach old age that their growth slows right down.What a lovely sight it will make.
Glad you like my Sleeping Beauty, she's made of stone poor girl but I bet she was stunning in life.

Lynne, Karen and Jeanne - Oh my. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you all came! We could have a gathering with these 'wonders', make some art and have lunch in the village pub. Who's up for it?
Lynne, the wood is tight grained, a sort of red/brown colour and the bark is amazing, Ill try to find my photos.

lynne h said...

thanks, annette... i figured it was tight grained since it's slow growing and can live to such a ripe old age, but i had the wood pictured as pale, sort of like birch but much finer grained.

yes, it would be wonderful if we all came and sat under the tree/s, made art, and had lunch at the pub. : )

Heather said...

What a fascinating post - thankyou for sharing all this with us. Is the effigy in stone or wood? Either way, to make the veil look so transparent is the work of a very skilled craftsman. It is very comforting to know that there are some 'plants' which survive whatever nature and man throws at them, year in and year out. Perhaps there is hope for us all though I'm not aiming for 3,000 years!

Jo Horswill said...

Annette...this post is wonderful.
I never thought I could so love reading about such things.
I have put these tree's on my list of things to see before I die!!!
And sleeping beauty is beautiful.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Being a serious lover of trees, I was fascinated by this. The photos were amazing. To sit inside a tree...imagine! And I do so love Milner's comparison between the oak and the yew.

acornmoon said...

A wonderful post,so fascinating. Lovely photographs too.

annette emms said...

Lynne - smiling here!x

Heather - glad you like Sleeping Beauty, she's made of stone and so beautiful ishe always brings tears of wonder to my eyes!

Jo - what a great idea, I just know you will love them.x

Pamela - thanks, next time i go to visit the Yew ,I'll think of you.x

Valerie - Much Marcle is well worth a visit,I'm sure you'd be inspired. . .x

Rima said...

Hello Annette... happy n'yew year to you :) :)
This is very strange - I wandered over here to say hello on our new mobile connection and here is an old yew tree which can sit people inside it - just like in the dream I had last night!!
Some lovely pictures you have here...
always lovely to visit :)
Take care

annette emms said...

Rima - Hi! How lovely to have your company. Looks like the universe is trying to tell you something. . .
I hope you and Tui are enjoying your travels. Stay warm and safe.x

Chris said...

I am wondering if you found any fairies or dragons lurking in this ancient tree. It seems like the perfect home.

Gwen Buchanan said...

sitting inside an ancient tree... what a wonder... especially one this old.... the things that have gone on around it...

I wonder how long the roots stretch?

I'm quite speechless!

My Mother's Garden said...

Hi Annette~
I think I have fallen in love with the Yew tree. I have been awed every time I see your photos of these amazing trees. I went to Muir Woods in California and was awed in this same way by the amazing Redwood trees. They too, are thousands of years old. These incredible trees have witnessed so much in time.

From a fellow tree lover!


Jolly Good Yarn Girl said...

You would have been interested in the trees we saw in St Lucia this week - the Banyan tree grows around another tree for support and finally strangles it. As the inner tree rots away it leaves a hollow interior for the Banyan which has amazing holes around its outside... a gruesome tale ot two must have been told about this I expect

annette emms said...

Chris - there are so many legends around this tree and the places nearby, and yes, here be dragons. . .x

Gwen - It is so special to sit in this tree and dream. . the roots , well I'm sure another world must exist there.x

Karrita - oh, how I too, would love to meet those giant Redwood trees. One day maybe?x

Jolly good yarn girl - How wonderful, what an amazing place to holiday! Now I have to go there too!I'll add the Banyan trees to my list, thank you so much.x