Britain has one of the richest collections of yew trees in the world and with spring walks in mind the Conservation Foundation has produced a “yew-nique” online map featuring almost 1,000 ancient and notable yews around the UK as part of its We Love Yew campaign supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The map, which you can explore here, helps to highlight the distribution of Britain’s yews. Churchyards, for example, are particularly important sites for Britain’s yew tree heritage, holding almost 1,000 of our veteran yews, of which some 300 are classified as ancient. Interestingly, there are no ancient yews in East Anglia.
Yew trees are among the oldest living things in the British landscape – and have witnessed many centuries of change. Many have been measured and recorded over the years, with experts classifying them as being “veteran”, between 500 and 800 years old, or “ancient” years – anything over 800 years and possibly up to several thousand. However, there is still some doubt as to just how old they can be – even the experts disagree in the absence of age rings in the oldest yews, which are hollow.
The map has been produced with the help of the Ancient Yew Group, which has records on veteran, ancient and notable yews across the UK. If you have a yew which should be recorded but isn’t found on the map, you can contact the group at www.ancient-yew.org
The Conservation Foundation has been encouraging greater awareness of the long heritage of yew trees since 1987 and gave away almost 8,000 cuttings taken from trees estimated to be at least 2,000 years old to celebrate the year 2000.
In 2015 the Foundation launched We Love Yew to help communities celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta by planting young yews propagated from trees growing at the time of King John. It is thought he brought together his Barons and Bishops to witness the sealing of the Magna Carta under an ancient yew still growing beside the Thames near Runnymede.
The foundation is also currently funding carbon dating of a piece of a yew growing by an ancient well in Wales, which may help throw more light on the age of yews, and supporting churches and non-profit groups to care for and celebrate their yew trees.
A limited number of yews propagated from some of our ancient trees are available as part of the campaign to develop the next generation. For details contact email@example.com