Sacred Trees Sacred Places

More from Ancient and Sacred Tree member Janis Fry and her thoughts on saving ancient yews, and the petition to protect them is gaining ground!


Since starting the petition there has been a historic meeting in the House of Lords, with all the tree organisations. Baroness Jenny Jones, said that that getting this protection ‘should be quite easy’ given that we were doing this ‘at the right time’. The petition has reached nearly 300,000.


It should be a matter of national pride to have the largest collection of ancient yews on earth in Britain.


Janis said "The problem that has made this petition urgent, is of course the redundant churches and the fact that the churchyards, which are usually retained by the PCC when the church is sold, no longer have such an eye kept on them, as a result. Even when churches are still opened for services, perhaps once a month, yew trees can go missing as happened to the old yew at Penegoes, near Machynlleth, cut down by persons unknown.


Some of these redundant churches also have #ancientyews in the church yards, such as those at Alton Priors in Wiltshire, Elworthy in Somerset and St. Cadwaladr’s church at Llangadwaladr near Oswestry, (a favourite otherworldly place of mine, reached by miles of single track lanes).

On the Churches Conservation Trust website, there is a debate by the V&A about the dwindling congregations, from the point of view of who is going to look after these historic church buildings and protect churches in the CCT’s care, from ‘heritage crime’. Across the UK, churches face lead theft, vandalism and damage to irreplaceable stained glass. They are targeted for the precious historical artefacts they hold and the CCT are asking for donations for their protection. While there is doubtless the need to protect early rood screens, inscribed stones and wonderful old oak doors, no one seems to be asking who is going to look after the yews, which are far more ancient than these things!

One way the Churches Conservation Trust could raise funds is by flagging up the ancient yews which are also in their care but rarely receive so much as a mention!

These ancient trees were planted thousands of years ago in a time before Christianity and the redundant churches that now share their environment. They are far more important as ancient living monuments and yet so far, no provision for protection is being made for them and the Church says there is no need for legislation!

I think the Church should consider going back to their roots in order to move forwards to gain visitors and survive. People would come flocking to see these ancient yews if they were featured and celebrated! You only need to look at what has happened at the sleepy church of Defynnog which I put on the map in 2014 as home to probably the oldest tree in Britain! Or at the ancient yew at Fortingall, which is of a similar age, with it’s coach park! Visitor books which were renewed every 10 years or so at Defynnog are now replaced every few months! Tree tourism is becoming more and more popular. http://www.janisfryart.co.uk/ancient_yew_tours.htm

These sacred trees of the past, from a time when they were revered as sacred, are once more much noticed and admired in the present, with a growing concern and awareness of #climatechange and a resurgence of interest in ancient trees.


Ancient Yew at St Bertoline's Church in Barthomley, Cheshire.

Please keep signing and sharing the petition. https://www.change.org/p/save-britain-s-ancient-yew-trees-before-we-lose-any-more

Thank you

Amanda x

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