VISIT | The Venerable Ancient Yew Tree of Linton | Herefordshire
The old Yew Tree of Linton - one of the oldest?
Discover the old souls of Linton - one of four in the churchyard but one named as the most ancient Yew Trees of them all
They are rare, beloved and worthy of a moment of your time
A lesson in endurance, a lesson in the importance of the environment, a lesson in the majesty of trees no matter how poisonous or characterised
"...The amazing endurance of a tree that has seen more life than most..."
Competition seems to be all the rage these days. Biggest. Fastest. Best-est. What’s wrong with just good or nice, thrilling or curious? Why does it have to be an adjective that defines a winner?
There can be none more strange or befuddling as that of the intriguing quest for the oldest tree competition. Or let’s be precise the most ancient. Even the most mild discussion over Britain’s most ancient tree will leave you in confounding loops of comparison.
And even there is an argument – for when does a tree become ancient? Five hundred years? Eight hundred years? One thousand years? And who gets to decide? Special tree people? Arboreal experts?
But if you are going to discuss the venerable trees as I like to call them – like they’re people, bent, crotchety, short-sighted with a wicked sense of humour and a fascinating memory – then you must look to the Yew tree.
Taxus Baccata or the Yew tree is a wonder of a tree. Poisonous with fine evergreen needles and attractive cylinder red berries in winter beloved of blackbirds and thrushes. The timber as strong and long lasting as any. A tree of endurance and long life. It is that feature that appears to have led other more ancient peoples to associate it with death and the afterlife, a doorway to another.
They are a common feature of churchyards and it is why most candidates for the crown of most ancient trees are revealed near the churches of this island.
But let me introduce you to one such candidate – step forward the ancient yew tree in the little village of Linton in south Herefordshire.
The Linton Yew is one of four at the church of St Mary. But this old Linton lady has been here next the church perhaps the longest. The others have been named by the local protection as Bonnor, Emily and Vaughan – probably for the characters that once graced this village.
To work out how old a tree is, as some may know, is reliant on counting the rings of the tree within their trunk – each ring gives us a year. But the problem with the old yews is that their core, their very centre rots away as they age – dramatically it allows us all to stand in the heart of the tree but it makes it difficult to quantify their age. So an element of ‘guestimation’ is required.
The Linton Yew Tree is perhaps 1500 years old. It is perhaps the oldest tree in Britain, possibly Herefordshire although I think Much Marcle’s Yew might have an arm-wrestle on that subject. But it has been there for a long, long time.
But the amazing thing about this yew tree is not its age but its endurance – in 1998 this splendid tree was deliberately set on fire. Shame on those who failed to see the importance of a tree like this, such a witness to history, a teller of tales. But it survives. And ever it should – the Linton Yew Tree.
Directions and Map |
Find the village of Linton off the B4221 Newent - Gorsley road near Ross-on-Wye.