Britains Ancient Yews on Pagan Village

Britains Ancient Yews

Britain and in particular Wales, has the largest number of ancient yews in the world (157 at the most recent count).

Compliled by Janis Fry, author of 'The God Tree', published by Capall Bann.

Britain's Ancient Yews

Over the new year holiday, our Barrister Paul was in Somerset, where he saw a thriving yew at Nettlecombe, with lots of lower branches cut off. This is unnecessary mutilation designed to keep the yew in check. One of the saddest examples of this practise is the ‘Leaning Yew’ of Llanwenarth Citra, near Abergavenny. Here a branch travels 30 feet in the direction of the lean, desperately trying to touch down, in order to prop the tree up but all efforts are thwarted by it being cut off, meaning that sooner, rather than later, this yew of almost 2,000 years will fall over. 

More sympathetic and prudent are the custodians of Cantref, near Brecon who listened to advise after some of their yews were blown down in  gales and who will now place wooden props to support the remaining yews, while leading branches are allowed to descend to the ground in order to take root and stabilise the trees. The yew knows what it needs and if we valued them we would help them, protect them and stop vandalising them. 

Yews falling over are just one of the excuses for destroying them. With this immortal tree, fallen sections can just be removed or stabilised, leaving the rest to grow and regenerate. It is quite unnecessary to remove the whole tree. Much effort was made to clear the remains of the fallen ancient yew at Llanfoist, including dragging by tractor, burning and poisoning. However despite all this unsuccessful effort, the old stump sprouted a beautiful new young branch. It takes considerable determination to destroy a yew! It is not for nothing that it is known as the Tree of Life. The great yew at Llanwrin, cut down in the 80’s, has regrown, like the yew at the Holy Well of Gwenlais, also in Wales. 

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years of growth

Other excuses for wilful and unnecessary destruction and vandalism of our ancient living heritage yews range from tidying the church yard, to stopping yews from obscuring grave stones or making the whole place dark! In recent decades, the healthy old Saxon yew at Cilmery was destroyed for casting too much shadow, while another also in Powys at Cefnllys, was deliberately set fire to and burnt alive like another at Llanelen in Gower. Other yews can be destroyed for a new building extension as at Ashford Carbonnel, or even simply a public toilet! A yew known as the Witch Tree at Hagley in Worcestershire, may have been destroyed for being a ‘pagan’ tree, while one at Uffculme was destroyed for being too old. We need to seriously question our values. 

Slowly but surely most of our living heritage of yews will be destroyed, for one spurious reason or another, unless the law is changed. Please sign and share the petition to save the oldest trees in the world!

Britain's Ancient Yews

Compliled by Janis Fry, author of 'The God Tree', published by Capall Bann.

Britain and in particular Wales, has the largest number of ancient yews in the world (157 at the most recent count). Although there are still undiscovered yews, we now believe that in Wales, there are at least 31 yews aged at 2,000 years plus, 11 of 3,000 years plus, 1 at 4,000 years plus and 3 at 5,000 years plus, totalling 46 yews aged at over 2,000 years, in Wales.

In the rest of Britain we have recorded 111 yews aged at over 2,000 years. This total is made up of 75 yews aged at 2,000 years plus, 32 at 3,000 years plus, 3 at 4,000 years plus and 1 at 5,000 years plus.

Numbers of ancient yews for the whole of Britain therefore total at least 157. These figures are based on current information and may expand further. At some of the places listed here, there is more than 1 ancient yew.

Wales. Churchyard yews aged 5,000 years plus (3 yews)
Defynnog, Brecon
Discoed, Powys
Llangernwy, Clwyd

Wales. Churchyard yews aged 4,000 years (1 yew)
Bettws Newydd, Monmouthshire

Wales. Churchyard yews aged 3,000 years (11 yews)
Alltmawr, near Builth Wells, Powys
Llanafan Fawr, Powys
Llanbedr Ystrad Yw, Breconshire
Llandeiniolen, Gwynedd
Llandre, Cerdigion
Llanfaredd , near Builth Wells, Powys
Llanfeugan, Breconshire (2)
Llangynyw, Powys
Llanymawddwy, Gwynedd
Llantrithyd, Glamorgan

Wales. Churchyard yews aged 2,000 years (21 yews)
Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, Clwyd
Llanarth, Gwent
Llandrillo, Denbighshire
Llanfihangel Nant Melan, Powys
Llangathen, Carmarthenshire
Llangattock Juxta Usk
Llanilid, Glamorgan
Llanspiddyd, Powys
Maesmynis, Powys
Mynydd Islwyn, Gwent
Nantmel, Powys
Pantllidw, Machynlleth
Pennant Melangell, Powys
Penpont, Powys
Ystradgynlais, Powys
Pantybeudy, Llangeithio, Ceredigion
Gwytheryn, Conway
Mamhilad, Gwent
Rhulen, Near Builth, Powys
Meidrim, Carmarthenshire
Cyffylliog, Denbighshire

In the rest of Britain,

Churchyard Yews aged 5,000 years plus (1 yew)
Fortingall, Scotland

Churchyard Yews aged 4,000 years plus (3 yews)
Crowhurst, Surrey
Linton, Herefordshire
Tisbury, Wiltshire

Churchyard Yews aged 3,000 years plus (16 yews)
All Hallows, Dorset
Ashbrittle, Somerset
Clun, Shropshire
Claverley, Shropshire
Coldwaltham, Sussex
Farringdon, Hampshire,
Kenn, Devon
Kennington, Kent
Long Sutton, Hampshire
Lytchett Matravers, Dorset
Payhembury, Devon
Peterchurch, Herefordshire
Stanstead, Kent
Woodcott, Hampshire
Woolland, Dorset
Yazor, Herefordshire

The Yew Tree King by CK, available in print from The-Greenman-Man website

Churchyard Yews aged 2,000 years plus (45 yews)
Acton Scott, Shropshire
Aldworth, Berkshire
Ankerwycke, near Runnymede, Buckinghamshire
Astbury, Cheshire
Awre, Gloucestershire
Boarhunt, Hampshire
Buckland in Dover, Kent
Buxted, Sussex
Challock, Kent
Cradley, Worcestershire
Crowhurst, Sussex
Darley Dale, Derbyshire
Dunster, Somerset
Elworthy, Somerset
Hambledon, Surrey
Harrietsham, Kent
Hope Bagot, Shropshire
Huntley, Gloucestershire
Kemble, Gloucestershire
Leeds, Kent
Loose, Kent
Loughton, Shropshire
Mamhead, Devon
Martindale, Cumbria
Mid Lavant, Sussex
Molash, Kent
Old Enton, Surrey
Overton on Dee, Shropshire
Prior’s Dean, Hampshire
Ulcombe, Kent
Uppington, Shropshire
West Tisted, Hampshire
Wilmington, Sussex
Wintershall, Surrey
Rycote Manor, Oxfordshire
Sidbury, Shropshire
South Hayling, Hampshire
Staunton, Worcestershire
Stedham, Sussex
Stockbury, Kent
Tandridge, Surrey
Tangley, Hampshire
Tettenhall, West Midlands
Totteridge, Hertfordshire
Zeal Monachorum, Devon

Yews not in churchyards, (non churchyard yews), in the whole of Britain, aged 3,000 years plus (16 yews)
All Hallows, Dorset. One 30 ft. yew outside churchyard.
Boulsbury Farm, near Martin’s Wood, Hampshire
Bulbarrow, Dorset
Bodcott Farm, near Moccas Park, Herefordshire
Borrowdale, Lake District. National Trust
Bulbarrow Hill, Woolland, Dorset. On ancient barrow
Druids Grove, Surrey
Garnons Wood, nr. Mansell Gamage, Herefordshire
Keffold’s Farm, Haslemere, Sussex. Possible monastery site
Kentchurch, Herefordshire. Private estate. 3 yews
Knowlton Circles, Dorset. Henge monument
Norbury, Shropshire
Old Colwall, Herefordshire
Whitbury Hillfort, Dorset

Non Churchyard Yews in Wales aged 2,000 years plus (10 yews)
Caer Alyn, Llay, near Wrexham, Clwyd. Edge of field
Dolfor, Newtown, Powys. 2 yews on hillside
Dolforwyn Castle, Yew tree cottage, Welshpool, Powys. Next to well
Pantllidw, Machynlleth, Powys
Pantybeudy, Llangeithio, Ceredigion
Ty Illtyd, Llanhamlach, near Brecon, Powys. 3 yews on hillside
Yew tree Farm, Discoed, Offas Dyke, Powys/Herefordshire border

Non Churchyard Yews in the rest of Britain aged 2,000 years plus (30 yews)
Askerswell, Dorset
Barlavington Farm, Sussex
Coldred, Kent. On burial mound opposite church
Churchill, Worcester, Kidderminster area. Old Church site
Compton Dando, Wandsdyke, Somerset. On dyke
Craswall, Herefordshire
Ducks Nest Longbarrow, Dorset. Private land
Fountains Abbey, Ripon, Yorkshire. National Trust
Great Frazer Yew, above Loch Ness
Great Yews, Odstock, Wiltshire. Yew grove
Hanchurch, Stafforshire. Near a house called ‘The Yew Trees’
Holywell, Eardisley, Herefordshire. SSSI
Jays Copse, Haslemere. Surrey. Boundary marker tree
King Yew, Eastwood, Tiddenham Chase, Gloucestershire
Kyre Park, Worcestershire
Lydney Park, Gloucestershire
Lorton, Kendal, Cumbria. Wordsworth’s Tree. By stream in field
Marston Bigot, Somerset. Private land
Merdon Castle, Winchester, Hampshire
Middleton Scriven, Shropshire. 2 yews in field opposite church
Newlands Corner, Surrey
Old Enton, near Godalming, Surrey. Possible hillfort
Old Church, Ullswater, Cumbria. Hotel grounds
Rye Hill, near Knowlton Circles, Dorset. On farmland
Snoddington Manor Farm, Tidworth, Hampshire
Temple Farm, Longleat, Wiltshire
Yew tree knob, Wintershall private estate, Bramley, Guildford, Surrey
White house Copse, Cranbourne, Dorset
Yew Tree Field, Damerham, Dorset

Janis Fry started the petition "UK Parliament: Legal protection for ancient yew trees" in September 2018 which closed after 30 days having reached the target of over 10,000 signatures within that time. It is now thought prudent to re open this petition. Please sign the petition here.