VISIT | Marking Time at the Old Yew Tree at Much Marcle | Herefordshire
The Aged Yew Tree at Much Marcle
A magical ancient Yew Tree in a rural Herefordshire churchyard
Seemingly as old as time
Thousands of years of history has it seen - stood quietly here in Much Marcle
"...this ancient tree with a memory that must have seen many things and many times..."
A song, a song, for the aged yew,
That stands at the old church door;
He was there an hundred years ago,
And will be an hundred more!
There is something akin to wonder when you look at the giant coastal redwoods in North America; the giant Sequoias. These giant wonders which have been around for thousands of years – their bodies lurking in the sea mists, their height, their volume substantial. They make you feel like a tiny insignificant part of the ecosystem.
There are no giant sequoias in Britain. No beast-like specimens of those Californian titanics. But here’s the thing. We have our own trees marking time in slow seconds and moderate minutes. Years pass by like decades. These are the British monuments to the Earth – reminding us Brits of our own intransigence. That we are impermanent. That our time is numbered by decades, a century at best… whilst theirs in measured in millennia.
In a quiet village of Herefordshire, standing at the old church door in Much Marcle stands one such remarkable tree.
It is the old Yew Tree of Much Marcle.
It would be so easy to pass him by. As life cycles pass around him – births, christenings, weddings and deaths – he remains resolute and unspeaking. An enduring backbone to parish life.
But speak as you find of this old man. It is dense and leggy; twisted and contorted; dark and unsympathetic; it is hollow and held up by old lamp posts and timber beams.
The old lamp posts I speak of hold his frame at the front, adjacent to the church door. A curious addition. Done perhaps sixty years ago; perhaps a century. And even then, they have become part of the story. Once a decorative town streetlamp from Cheltenham, now to remain, a zimmer frame for the old Yew Tree.
He does not move but sits – the old man in his chair. But grumpily allows others to sit with him. A timber bench has been shaped to fit within his trunk. It is hollowed and now provides shelter from the rain or for a tender moment…
Many a tale can that old tree tell
Of shepherd-swain and village maid;
The old Yew Tree has become a part of society; St Bartholomew’s church is a mere recent neighbour. Its architectural delights and ecclesiastical legacies a mere spring chicken to the old man. Although worthy of consideration with its tomb to Blanche Mortimer and its chapel to the Kyrle-Money family with its links across the county. But if you pass this tree by, you miss out on a legacy. A one-off.
The Yew trees have always been seen as part of the old faith of this island – a pagan, druidic, natural belief. And the yews were a source of worship, of connection, of balance and communication. It is no surprise then, that one place of faith, of natural communion became a place of Christian worship – rather a building to a grassy knoll, an altar rather than a tree. So now they stand, these trees, often in close companion to the churches of this country. Seen by many as a cure-all to keep those old faiths at bay, but rather more a remnant of them.
The old Yew Tree here has been measured, assessed and considered over the many years… all to work out the time. Some gauge of our own humanity. For how old is our old Yew Tree of Much Marcle?
Some say 1,500 years. Some say 3,000 years. Some split the difference and say 2,000. But what’s a thousand years between friends? He has been here in this quiet place since ‘time’ began…
So don’t bother California. Don’t push for the skies. Come to Much Marcle. Come see our own friend. He’ll be waiting for you. Where he always has.
Extracts from The Aged Yew by T.T.
Hereford Journal 30th October 1839
Directions and Map |
Find Much Marcle Yew Tree at the St Bartholomew's church in the village of Much Marcle off the Ross-on-Wye to Ledbury A449 road.