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Circles under churches
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Re: Circles under churches
May 11, 2005, 11:32
Yes - I agree. Yews can be regarded almost as immortal as, in a sense, single yew trees are not really single yew trees - they are cloned trunks spreading out in an ever widening circle. Same thing is true of much younger coppiced ash trees in managed woodland. Trees were cut to near ground level for poles . Then the tree regenerated from the base. Every few years, the new poles were harvested. Un-coppiced or un-pollarded trees died through sheer weight of branches, but the coppiced trees just kept sending up new trunks in a widening hollow circle. Impossible to date through tree ring growth because the original tree trunk has long rotted away.

Don't be too dismayed at the statememt that only 6% of yew place names are near churches - that was a figure from a survey made in Cheshire. - there is still a very strong link with places of worship. Important thing to consider is that the impressive old yew we see today was not like that 2000 years ago. It was just a thin sapling and no one would venerate that. Unless of course, as you say, another elderly yew grew nearby.

The argument is very old - Gilbert White considered it in 1789 with regard to the yew at Selborne (fell in the gale of 1990) and in 1658, Sir Thomas Browne wrote " Whether the planting of yewe in Churchyards, hold not its originall from the ancient Funerall rites, or as an Embleme of Resurrection from its perpetual verdure, may almost admit conjecture." Any tree or shrub with red berries seems to attract Christian mythos because of the drops of blood on the Crown of Thorns
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