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 . . .