• 06Mar
    Categories: Journal entries Comments Off on Tree of Eternity

    fortingall_yew.jpgReally enjoyed watching “Trees That Made Britain” last night (Tuesday 7pm BBC2). It was a repeat but I only caught one of the series the first time round. The programme is hosted by Kew’s arboriculturists (had to look that word up!) Tony Kirkham and Jon Hammerton and you are soon caught up in their enthusiasm for all things arboreal, they have such a passion for their subject.

    I’ve always loved trees and think they are under-rated and under-appreciated. Where would we be without them? Last night’s programme was about the Yew which I always look out for when visiting old churches, most churchyards have at least one of these old faithfuls in their grounds. I didn’t realise they mostly pre-date the church they stand beside though, or indeed that the church was probably built there because of the tree. Steeped as they are in folklore and history, they have long been a pagan symbol of everlasting life and often marked an ancient sacred site. A church was built nearby with the aim of luring the pagan worshippers into the churches.

    One featured tree was the Fortingall Yew which stands in the churchyard of the village of Fortingall in Perthshire, Scotland. It’s age is estimated to be at least 2000, and possibly up to 5000, years old – certainly the oldest tree in Europe. The girth when measured in 1769 was a staggering 17 metres. Now sadly there are just two surviving fragments due to natural deterioration and souvenir hunters in the nineteenth century cutting off pieces of the wood to keep. However the tree is healthy, cared for and now surrounded by a low wall for protection. It could well last for many more centuries yet. Just think of the changes it has witnessed, the sights it has seen and the incredible stories it could tell.

    muchmarcleyew1.jpgTony Kirkham and Jon Hammerton seated inside another ancient Yew in the grounds of St. Bartholomew’s Church, Much Marcle, Herefordshire (photo credit: Archie Miles)

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