Where to see yew trees in Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 15:44 15 May 2017
Credit: Edward Parker / Alamy Stock Photo
With many well over 1,000 years old, these fascinating trees have stood the test of time and ‘assaults’ over the centuries by generations of people
A three year project that took her to every churchyard in Berkshire led to Linda Carter recording over 450 yews within them and previously sacred places. It all started after 1995’s ‘The Living Churchyard Project’ with a training day at White Waltham, where St Mary’s Church now has an ancient yew, a younger one and a third planted for the Millennium.
Size, age and known history, including some now shrubby versions which had been chopped down or pollarded many years ago and since restarted new lives, everything went into a comprehensive and invaluable record. All the most noted yews are there, plus others which could well find their place in history perhaps centuries from now.
Meet the big six
• Ankerwyke - It stands in previously consecrated grounds at Wraysbury, has a girth of over 30 ft and is now a hollow shell over a root system still producing a crown.
• Langley Marish - A golden oldie behind protective railings, with a decayed trunk from which stems still grow.
• White Waltham - Another grand survivor, having been taken down to head height, but with limbs still growing.
• Shottesbrooke - This tree has survived being cut down even further than the one at White Waltham but produced shoots for a new crown.
• Combe - With a girth of 18ft, this tree has beaten a lack of light in its shady position by producing vertical branches, rot and some limb removal.
• Oare - The stump may have been taken down to ground level, but measurements revealed it still had a girth of some 20ft in 1997.
Other notable yews, often with hollow centres, included those at Midgham, Winkfield, Ufton Nervet, Swallowfield, Welford, Aldworth, Pangbourne and Easthampstead. Linda found that by far the majority of the county’s churchyards had yews, in some cases younger trees which had been planted to replace ‘the dear departed’.
She also noted the sex of each tree, deciding to have several recounts after totting up a virtually equal number of males and females, although amongst the largest trees there were more males. Linda’s record is well worth a view at ancient-yew.org.
Your nearest Yew
If you are a fan of yew trees, it’s easy to visit one in our county, perhaps finding out more of its history beforehand at ancient-yew.org. A total of 42 ancient, veteran or notable yews within the county can be found at the website of the group.
You’ll find them everywhere from formal grounds like Basildon Park and Caversham Court to Ashampstead Common, and other sites include Boxford, Bucklebury, East Ilsley, Horton, Hurst, Sunninghill and Winkfield.
One of the most interesting uses of yew is at Cliveden, where a 500 metres winding maze opened six years ago. It replaced one formed in 1894, but only a few yew trees remained on the site. A sketch drawn by the 1st Viscount Astor was used to recreate it, using 1,100 yews.