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A December reflection

AYG Newsletter December 2011

Toby Hindson

As I reflect on the last few years of AYG activity a certain sense of awe and excitement creeps over me. A group we are, but what a range of individuals! And our association with each other, the meeting of minds around the ancient yew, has in many cases brought out some of our best qualities and achievements.  We have become a veritable league of extraordinary gentlemen. That’s not just a throwaway quip either, for that is in great part how the organisation works. Each of us became members because we already had something unique and relevant to offer, and in the AYG individually conceived and realised work towards the common goal is the general modus. We do our work unhindered, and when asked our fellows unselfishly rally round using their particular skills to help us critique and polish it, or give opinion on the direction of a new project. Imagine what the world would be like if this were a common ethos in industry and politics.

The last few years of our work has seen the yew come out of the darkness and into the light of scientific scrutiny. Fifteen years ago when I began my own yew investigations the British scientific and arboricultural press would hardly touch work on old yews; their image was tainted both by a “mythic” element, and also by a very long running and unresolved debate over ageing, both of which it was generally felt could injure the reputation of a purely scientific journal. Articles on yews that should have been acceptable to the mainstream were often, of necessity, carried by Neo-Pagan publications and consequently angled to suit the editor. This propagated and perpetuated the “way out” image of the subject. Only a sustained coherent and science based effort could change that, and the AYG website has provided the platform that a disillusioned scientific press so often denied to supporters and serious researchers of the yew.

Now the taint appears to be lifting, and questions about protection are being asked in the right quarters because materials that celebrate the religiously important mythic and poetic reality of the yew can at last be easily distinguished from the legitimate ethno-botanical and the rigorously scientific materials which are needed by law makers and arboriculturalists, and which are provided by the AYG.

So the triumph is twofold, the presence and impact of the excellent website, which is the tip and the flower of the AYG iceberg exposed to public view, and the remarkable and productive working environment generated by the largely informal association of talented, cooperative and self-motivated people from diverse organisations and backgrounds. In some ways it is no great surprise that this should be, the yew is a great rallying point, and the cause is an important one. The campaign to protect this part of our heritage in Britain and Europe has never been questioned or trivialised by anyone that I’ve explained it to, and I trust that our sponsors are pleased with the return that they have seen on the confidence that they placed in us.

Ultimately, it would be wonderful to realise the trite message that pops up from time to time on a certain television advertisement: “we all love trees”. If that were truly so, and the bulk of the general public had not become rather disconnected from such things, our work would not be necessary. Funding would have been provided for public bodies to look into the question of our oldest trees, and protection would be absolute across Britain, as in parts of the rest of Europe. As it is, there is AYG, and we can be extremely proud of the strides that we have, together and in our individual ways, made towards the goal of seeing our ancient and beautiful yews revered and protected as they should be. There is further to go, but I for one have high hopes.

Members and contributors of The Ancient Yew Group– thank you all for your unselfish gifts of time, energy and expertise.

Toby Hindson

What's New - November 2011

Yew Classification A-prop
The Selborne Yew in Hampshire was blown down in a gale in 1990. Such was its fame, both locally and nationally, that a section of the tree was lifted back into its original position. There were great hopes that the legendary regenerative powers of the yew might bring the Selborne Yew back to life. Sadly this was not to be the case, although a recent discovery of yew growth close to the enormous stump seemed promising. Closer examination however showed it to be from a seed that had germinated close to the stump.
But the genetic strain that enabled the Selborne yew to reach an age probably above 1000 years lives on in the churchyard. In 1990 many cuttings were taken from the tree and one of these can be seen at
Its A-prop classification denotes a yew that has been propagated from a known ancient yew. There are many such examples growing in Britain, the majority of which were gathered on behalf of the Conservation Foundation to distribute in their Yews for the Millennium project. For more about classification codes go to:
The following new sites have been added, which include 3 veteran trees (V):
Sarnesfield (V): Horsted Keynes: Cissbury Ring: Tarring Neville - Tim Hills
Ampney Crucis: Down Ampney: Larmer Tree Gardens (V): Lydlinch: Milton Abbas-Pidgeon House Plantation: Orchardleigh; Plaitford: Sparsholt – Peter Norton 
Farthing Down (V): Piper’s Hill Common – John Smith
New photos have been added to illustrate yews at the following sites:
Aston Botterell-field: Much Marcle: Old Romney - Tim Hills
Wrekin - Ian Robert Brown
1850 engraving of the Dunsfold yew
The Sapperton churchyard yew avenue – Peter Norton
Ystradgynlais – Janis Fry
Lost yews are reported at Aston Botterell-church: Snave: Ruckinge: Postling: Mayfield: Ashdown Forest - Duddleswell Crossroads

What's New - October 2011

Ancient Yews and Tree Preservation Orders


In this paper Russell Ball argues for “the need to protect a special and unique international resource.” Our latest statistical information shows that 62% of the known ancient and veteran yews of England are found in churchyards, while in Wales that figure rises to 95%.


Tree Assessment for Heritage Status by Jeremy Barrell


In this document, Jeremy Barrell presents a format in which individual trees are assessed according to various criteria, namely  visual, scientific, cultural and national importance. I have seen almost 1000 yews in the ancient and veteran categories and am sure that almost all would satisfy the criteria for Heritage Status.      


Churchyard Yews Surveys


Peter Norton has explored churchyards along the course of the river Kennet from its source to its confluence with the Thames. Records of the yews found in these churchyards are found on the Peter Norton Surveys of Churchyard Yews webpage entitled Wiltshire, Berkshire and Hampshire Yews – The River Kennet . The articles are found at Yew Articles / Churchyard Yews / Peter Norton Surveys of Churchyard Yews. Or click on Kennet part 1 and Kennet part 2


New sites have been added as follows


Dyrham and Herriard – Peter Norton

Eastbourne: Eridge Green: Henfield – Tim Hills

Albourne: Linch: Lurgashall: Patcham. These 4 have known planting dates - Tim Hills 


New photographs


Greatham: Newton Valence: Old Alresford: Ropley: Selborne: West Tisted - Peter Norton

Brightling, Brown`s Oak Farm: Old Romney – Tim Hills


What's New - September 2011

We have been asked for permission to have our Aims and Vision translated into Belorussian.
New yews are recorded at the following locations. The majority are Notable, but there are also a few Ancient (A) Ancient and (V) Veteran specimens.  
Bwlchgwyn: Cubley: Park Wood-Chilham: Pluckley: Pluckley churchyard: Stanford: Stourhead: Wythenshawe Park – Ancient Tree Hunt
Stockbridge-the Milson Roundabout Yew: Stockbridge-Vine Inn Yew – Peter Andrews
Hergest Ridge-near Gladestry – Lewis Goldwater
Lingmoor Fell: Nab Scar – Louise Hemsley
Drayton: Erbistock: Greystoke: Hanworth (V): Hillingdon: Newick: Sherbourne-Warwickshire: Trent: Treuddyn: Trull: Upton Grey churchyard: West Harptree: West Hatch: Woodchester Park: Wootton – Tim Hills
Ashridge House: East Sutton Park: Wateringbury-garden – Owen Johnson
Chilling Copse (V) – Gary Manning
Bishopstrow-churchyard: Charlton: Chilworth Old Village: East Tytherley-avenue: Fairmile Bottom SSSI (V): Farley: Mells: St Giles Park-Wimborne (A and V) – Peter Norton
Beckenham – Barry Saich
West Wycombe-Henge Earthworks – Chris Street
New photos have been added at:
Eastling: Knole Park – Ancient Tree Hunt
Henllan: Nantglyn – Shaun Burkey
Barlow – Mary Haslam
Cheston Combe – Tim Hills
Froxfield Green: Monkton Up Wimborne (near) – Peter Norton
Disserth – Ruth Seadon
Lost yews are reported at Gorton, Kinnerton and Shareshill-Sardon Magna

What's New - August 2011

New articles
Peter Norton has already carried out yew surveys in a large number of churchyards in Dorset and Wiltshire. Hampshire is now added to this list. By following the course of the Hampshire Test and its tributaries he has visited no fewer than 80 churchyard sites, recording 182 yews.
The articles are found at Yew Articles / Churchyard Yews / Peter Norton Surveys of Churchyard Yews. Or take these short cuts:
Removed article 
At the beginning of the month we published an article telling the story of an unconventional method of caring for an old yew. The article was entitled "Rainham - A novel approach to Conservation". Its purpose was to highlight the random nature of care for Britain’s oldest trees, and the reliance on individual church members and church funds to provide for any work carried out. Some readers mistakenly thought that inclusion of the article signified our approval of the method used and were concerned that others might consider copying the procedure. The article has been temporarily withdrawn from the website and will be reinstated at a later date along with a paper summarising the existing expert opinions, research and standard good practices which show why this treatment should never be considered.      

Lost yews are recorded at Shalstone, Sanderstead and Stockton-on-Teme, while at Seathwaite in Cumbria the old churchyard yew appears to be dying.

What's New - July 2011

New articles added this month:
Several site visits have been written up by Peter Norton:
East Tytherley in Hampshire: Hare Warren and Bishopstone Down in Wiltshire: Stansted Forest in West Sussex. Research in Stansted Forest was carried out with Hugh Milner.
The following new sites have been added – the majority include photographs. The trees are Notable, unless otherwise indicated by (V) Veteran or (A) Ancient:
Apley Castle: Gilgarran Rose Gardens: Kinsham (Upper), Shirley Farm – Ancient Tree Hunt
Ebrington: Ewyas Harold (V): Kilpeck: Lindridge: Taliaris (V): St Devereux (V): Sutton Courtenay – Tim Hills
Alton Barnes: Ashford Hill: Boxford: East Kennet: Finchampstead: Great Shefford: Iwerne Minster: Kingsclere: Newtown: Pamber Priory: Preshute: Silchester: Wasing: Wolverton – Peter Norton
Chalford – Tony Preece
New photos have been added to illustrate yews at the following sites:
Albury: Gladestry: Ufton Nervet – Ancient Tree Hunt
Hewelsfield: Llansadwrn – Tim Hills
Aldingbourne: Breamore Park: Charminster: Crawley: Midgham: North Hayling: Sherbourne St John: South Hayling: Tangmere: Walberton – Peter Norton
Colwinston; Llantrithyd Park – Tom Seymour
Lost yews are recorded at Birdham and West Hendred

What's New - June 2011

New Yew Sites


A large number of new yew sites have been added to the Gazetteer in the last two months. Of particular note are Upland Yew sites in North Yorkshire, where the intrepid Tim Laurie has been recording yews growing out of limestone cliffs and on the scree slopes. The Ancient, Veteran or Notable status given to individual trees is the same as that on the Ancient Tree Hunt website, where they were first recorded. These are important trees and might well prove to be our oldest yews. Find them in the Gazetteer at Arndale Beck Sheepfold Scar–West: Arndale Beck Sheepfold Scar–East: Arndale Hole Lower Scar: Arndale Springs–Upper Scar: Clints Scar: Dicky Edge-east side of Throstle Gill (1) : Dicky Edge-east side of Throstle Gill (2) : Clapgate Gill: Deep Dale: Ellerton Scar: Fell End, Arkengarthdale: Kexwith Beck Scar: Whitcliffe Scar


The following new sites have been added – all with photographs. The trees are Notable, unless otherwise indicated by (V) Veteran or (A) Ancient:


Bottom Wood, near Pangbourne (V) : Box Hill Estate: Brasted: Burrs Wood, Ashurst: Chandlers Wood, near Chartwell (V) : Coleshill Park: Croft Castle Park (V) : Crundale: Dam House, Astley: Denge Wood: Ditton Place, Staplefield: Dormansland (V) : Drayton: Englefield: Foy: Frittenden: Great Comberton (V) : Groombridge: Hendon: Ickworth House: Lacock Abbey: Lakeside-Landing Knott Wood: Mersham: Myddelton Gardens: Old Coulsdon, Devilsden Wood: Preston Bagot: Scotney Castle: St Leonards Forest, Horsham (V) : Sundridge: Sunningwell: Tarrington: Westfield Wood, North Downs - Ancient Tree Hunt

Rushton Spencer -  Alfred Ellis

Letton - Phi Evans

Staunton-on-Wye - Geoff Garlick

Wormshill - Cliff Hansford

Berkhamsted: Broughton Hackett (A): Chesham: Chesham Bois: Ellingham:  Elmstone Hardwicke: Fladbury: Frome Vauchurch: Hanley William: Hampton: Hedgerley: Hurst: Limpsfield: Meifod: Old Windsor: Overbury: Peckleton: Quatford: Stoke Hammond: Tugford: Westbury - Tim Hills

Naseby and Naseby Church - Tim Kellett

Adlington - Trevor Langley

Ham: Inkpen: Lytchett Minster (A) : Vernham Dean: Yapton - Peter Norton

Wragby - Edwin Pretty

Clayhidon - Barry Saich

Chittlehampton - Elen Sentier


The following sites have also been added – no photos:


Arundel Castle: Bilsington: Cranleigh churchyard: Frensham: Hammer Hill: Henmead Hall,nr Cuckfield: Itchingfield: Preston St Mary: St Roche`s Arboretum: Upton Pyne: Westonbirt School: Willesborough - Ancient Tree Hunt

Caddington - David Alderman

Buriton: Hartley Witney: Langrish (2 veterans) - Russell Cleaver

Bicton: Bitton: Bury Manor Castle: Cameley: Charminster: Chew Stoke: Cleeve Prior: Crawley: Donnington: Henllys: Homme Castle: Leonard Stanley: Llandewi Skirrid: Llanfarchell: Mordiford: Nercwys: Newnham: North Wootton: Old Heathfield: Penrhos, Powys: Shepton Beauchamp: Sherbourne St John: St Weonards: Stowey: Wick St Lawrence: Widworthy: Winkfield: Woolstaston: Wichling - Tim Hills

Farnborough: Herne: Mertsham: Old Romney - Owen Johnson

Abberley Hill (V) - Rob McBride


New photos have been added to illustrate yews at the following sites:

Bridge: Broomfield,Kent: Bunbury: Bystock: Cheddar: Compton Dando: Clyro: Dunkerton: Harlington: Kinsham: Little Chart: Monks Horton: Nonington: Speldhurst: Stelling: Upper Hardres: Wormsley - Ancient Tree Hunt

Rowlestone - Keith Arrowsmith

Hardwick Hall - John Durkin

Chapel Allerton - Barry Evershed

Dillington House - Helen Falconar

Pensax: Swallowfield - Tim Hills

Brabourne - Alastair McVail

Brockley Combe: Combe: Ellingham: Hursley: Leigh Woods 1 and 2: Lytchett Matravers: Tangley: Wakehurst Place: Waverley Abbey - Peter Norton 

St Symphorien - Wim Peeters

Llanrhidian - Simon Perkins

Lorton - Edwin Pretty

Stoke Gabriel - Juan Carlos Remolina

Corhampton: Hampton Court - Steve Waters

What's New - May 2011

New Yew Sites


In May more than 100 new locations were added to the Gazetteer. Many more will be added during this month and a full list of these new sites will appear on this page at the end of June.  


County Surveys of Non - Churchyard Yews


This new category is found under the headings Yew Articles – Non Churchyard Yews

The first two reports are from Gloucestershire and Somerset, and more will be added to as time permits. This page is another step towards making publicly accessible all of the information I have gathered over the last 14 years.


Major Survey of Churchyard Yews


Peter Norton has completed another survey of churchyard yews, this time along the catchment area of the Dorset Stour. In a series of 3 articles he takes an inventory of churchyard yews along the Upper, Middle and Lower Stour.

The articles are found on the Church of England page under County Surveys - Peter Norton - River catchment area


Heart of England Tree Day - Toby Hindson


On the 27th of April I attended the International Society of Arboriculture's Heart of England Tree Day at the kind invitation of Russell Ball. It was an informal and enjoyable event attended largely by tree officers from around the country. The event was led by the indefatigable and knowledgeable Steve Falk who showed us a variety of trees including some enormous and unique limes, and gave us a master calss in conifer recognition. I gave a talk on the application of the Ancient Yew Group protocols in the perfect setting: under an old yew in the grounds of Ragley Hall. The day ended at Stoneleigh Abbey where we were stunned by Warwickshire's largest oak, measured on the day at 30' 5'' (9.26m) at breast height. 

What’s New - April 2011


Responsibility for Churchyard Yews


A record of the yews in the Dioceses of Bristol, Chester and Lichfield has been added, and those of Rochester and Southwark amended. They are found on the Church of England webpage.

Note on page 2 of these documents the empty column awaiting the names of those responsible for the management of individual trees. It states that “it is not known who is directly responsible for the management of these ancient, veteran or notable yews. Some will be in a Conservation Area, some will be in churchyards whose management has been taken over by the local authority. At others the responsibility for our oldest trees might fall to the Parochial Church Council or the Parish Council, and in some cases the fate of an ancient yew might be determined solely by the vicar acting with their churchwarden.” We are hoping that a representative from each Diocese will help us establish the status of the trees at each of these locations.


In Wales we have added the first diocesan records, those of Bangor and Llandaff. They are found on the Church in Wales webpage. The issue of responsibility for yews in Welsh churchyards will be tackled at a later date. 




Three nineteenth century poems have been added to the Poetry page

The Service Yew; on Merrow Downs, written in 1855

The Ormiston Yew Tree, published in 1824

The Yew Tree of Penisal, published in 1836


Several pages of additional information have been added to the Crowhurst Yew in Surry article. Access this article at,SurreyApril%202011.pdf


Hazlewood Castle


There exist only a handful of old yews that have had their branches deliberately trained to the ground, where layered trees have grown in a circle around the tree and formed into a hedge. Examples of this botanical art are found and celebrated at Armathwaite Hall in Cumbria, Beaumanor Hall in Leicestershire, Morden Hall Park in Greater London and Shugborough in Staffordshire. Hazelwood Castle was a 5th, but for reasons unknown the owners have destroyed several hundred years of growth form this rare form of yew.


New sites recorded:


Horndean, near (N) – Stephen Cox

Sherfield English-Old Church (N): West Tytherley-North Lane (N) – Peter Norton

Willersley (N) – Tony Harrison

Clearbury Down (N) – Peter Andrews

St Nicholas (N) – Bruce McDonald


The oldest yews in each county

This was formerly part of the FAQ page. It is now possible to see the examples without going into the Gazetteer.


What’s New - March 2011

Our technical problems have been resolved and we are now able to add new articles. The following are now available on the webpage Individual Yew Reports for Churchyard Yews 
East Woodhay - The Burning Bush
This article from St Martin`s church website illustrates the phenomenon of the copious release of pollen from the male yew tree. A century ago the first `Yew Pollen Storm` of the year was announced in some broadsheet newspapers in the same way as the first cuckoo in spring.  
Hemsworth`s famous Yew tree faces the chop
Stuart Robinson writes about this long dead tree. Its stump remains a powerful presence in the churchyard and could last for centuries more.
Lyneham:Heavy snow damages ageing yew tree
This report in Lyneham Village Online gives an account of the destruction of a section of their yew in February 2009. It illustrates the affection with which such ancient yews are held.

Peter Norton continues to survey yews both in and outside of churchyards. This month we include two more, to be found on the webpage Peter Norton Surveys of Non Churchyard Yews.
The Yews of Compton Downs, Hampshire
Grovely Wood Yew Avenue, Wiltshire

It is always satisfying to have work recognised and appreciated. In the Spotlight on the Ancient Yew Group Chris Catling, writing in Current Archaeology, highlights the work being done by the Ancient yew Group. 

New sites recorded: Abbey Dore (N), Binsted (V and N), Dorstone (N) East Hoe Manor (N) Elton (N) Hardington Mandeville (N) - Tim Hills
Harley Down (N), Tollard Royal (N) - Peter Norton
Alice Holt (6 veterans) - Toby Hindson
Crowmarsh Gifford (N) - Dave Kenny
Biggin Hills (V) - Steve Waters

Lost yews are reported at: Barlow, Flax Bourton, Llwynfynwent - Tim Hills

New photos have been added at: Dinefwr Park/Llandyfeisant - Tim Hills
Purton St Mary - Peter Norton 
Skipton Castle – new historical images from Christian Wolf

A single male branch on the female yew at Stoke Charity has been reported by Peter Norton.

What’s New - February 2011

This month I have been able to add information and photographs of many new yew sites. Since we are now classifying trees as Ancient, Veteran or Notable this is reflected in the information below. We are still unable to add new articles, but hope to be able to do so during March. 

New sites recorded:
Farleigh Wallop (N) – Paul Beevers, Andy Noble, Peter Norton
Coddenham (N) – Ian Robert Brown
Stoke Charity (N) – Bob Burrows
Glamis Castle (V) – Judy Dowling
North Downs-The Larches (V) – Cliff Hansford
Bury (N) : Cullompton (N) : Drayton Bassett (N) : Llanbedr-y-Cennin (N) : Luppitt (N) Wambrook (N) – Tim Hills
Askerswell (A) – Toby Hindson and Tim Hills
Fareham-Private location (N) – Owen Johnson
Mapledurham (V) : Ware (N)  – Dave Kenny
Boldre (V) – Hugh Milner/Peter Norton
Dalswinton (N) – Jean Muir
Ashford Hangers (N) : Bicknoll Wood (V) : Hare Warren (N) : Langley Manor Estate Woodland (N) : Oakley Copse (N) : Templeton (V) – Peter Norton
Tottenham House (V and N) – Jack Oliver and Joan M.Davis
Preston-on-Stour (N) – Edwin Pretty
Martock (N) – Barry Saich
Capel Glyn Collwng (N) : Oerley Hall (N) – Michael Woolmer
Ashdown Forest, Pond Bay (N) : Igtham-Mote Farm (N) : Northiam Church House (N)   Steve Young

Lost yews are reported at:
Wimborne St Giles - Shaftesbury Estate – Peter Andrews
Llyshendy – Lynn Hughes
Hermitage – Peter Norton

New photos have been added:
Abbots Leigh, Garth Brengy, Llanhamlach, Talachddu –Tim Hills
Wormleybury – Dave Kenny
Bishopstoke, Boarhunt, Brockenhurst, Marchwood-Warwick’s Copse, Shalbourne, Southwick, Steep – Peter Norton
Strata Florida – Christian Wolf

What`s New - January 2011

New website
Teething problems have prevented the addition of many newly discovered yew sites and more than 100 photographs. It also means that one or two articles have temporarily `disappeared`.  The problems will be ironed out in the coming weeks. For anybody who has subscribed to the Ancient Yew Group Newsletter, I am awaiting instruction on how this is to be managed and thank you for your patience.

Spanish Yew Group
3 of our founder members, Fred Hageneder, Toby Hindson and Andy McGeeney have been providing hospitality to some of our Spanish yew friends. They were taken to many yew sites, including Defynnog, Llywel, Llanarth, Llanspyddid, Llanelly, Mamhilad, Tandridge, Ankerwyke, Crowhurst (Surrey) and Newlands Corner.  I have received a copy of their El libro del Tejo (book of the yew), published in 2000 – when the yew was Spain’s  Tree of the Year.  This illustrated book of over 300 pages maps each region of Spain and shows the locations of significant individual yews or yew populations. I hope that at some time in the future we might be in position to offer something similar, so that those without access to the internet will also be able to access the information we have gathered. 

Yew and archaeology
In the July 2010 issue of Current Archaeology, Chris Catlin, writing about the Ancient Yew Group, warns that browsing this website “can be addictive – once bitten, you will find it difficult not to want to know more about a remarkable tree that provides a living link between our own time and the landscape and beliefs of the past.”  This article is one of a series in which Chris Catlin “throws the spotlight on one of those little known, yet tirelessly dedicated, voluntary heritage societies thriving in Britain today.” The full article will appear as soon as we have sorted out our technical problems.