The splendour of an ancient yew tree

There is a rich history to the yew tree, not only in the most literal of senses, but from a cultural and mythological sense as well. In fact, there are many books on the yew tree, of which some can be found here, here, and here. This array of literature, absolutely informative and full of interesting facts on the yew, at the rawest of levels shows how highly-regarded the yew tree is in culture.

Because we are likely all aware of the fact that the yew tree can be found situated close to churchyards (or graveyards), and as I said I was at a cemetery earlier and had a few other interesting bits to share with you, it’s hardly a surprise when I say that I found a very old yew tree in the church grounds. This yew, shown below, is easily hundreds of years old, if not at least 1,000 (the church has been there since the 14th century, and many yew trees pre-date churches).

Without further hesitation, it is my pleasure to share these images with you. I do however stress that, in the flesh, this yew is far more captivating – a photo does not do this yew justice.

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To set the scene, we can see this yew tree in its entirety. I would say that the diameter of the crown is easily 20m, and the low-arching limbs make pushing through into the centre quite a task. A more alert individual might already have spotted an interesting something within the foliage crown.
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Looking at the yew’s structure, we can clearly see three distinct stems. Again, we can also see that interesting something.
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As is so common with very old trees, the trunk has actually fluted so much that it has separated into separate stems. Because vigour declines with age, and because laying down an entire annual ring becomes increasingly more demanding as the trunk’s girth increases, old trees may only lay down partial rings. In time, this is what leads to this situation. The weight on these stems must surely be supported mechanically, else they may simply collapse under their own weight.
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I guess I gave it away! Here we can see many supporting beams holding up the heavy crown of this yew tree. Retaining its exquisite character with such mechanical supports is absolutely mandatory in situations such as this. It is important, where such support systems are installed, that they are routinely assessed. The current British Standards (3998:2010), for aerial support systems (cable bracing, rigid bracing, etc), states inspections must be undertaken annually, though a more detailed one every five years.
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The splendour of an ancient yew tree

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