Repotting the Excalibur Yew

The stone and the tree were collected together; I had no option as the tree grew through the stone. I carried the tree for just under a mile down the mountain to my vehicle… it is very heavy and I collected no more that day as I was truly knackered. I have done some work on the right side of the stone as I wanted to expose some more of the trunk line, this has now weathered and is indistinguishable from the rest of the stone. The combination were collected in 2009 and the tree has thrived over the last few years, even though the tree is very slow growing the canopy is developing well and should become a pleasing bonsai in time, a dwarf rhododendron is planted at the front to break up the ‘wall’ of stone. .

How the tree looked when first collected

How the tree looked when first collected

with a little temple just for fun!

with a little temple just for fun!

Please choose your favorite ‘Front’ for this Yew

This is a Chuhin Yamadori yew that I collected 10 years ago, I have slowly worked the tree down from a large double trunk to this little tree. Prior to making the photos I was undecided as to which ‘front’ I wanted for the tree. I think know, but what do you think? Please vote on your preferred front and comment as to why you have chosen. Thanks for taking part. BTW the pot is NOT the final pot for exhibition.

Yew A Yew B

Among the Ancient Yews of Borrowdale

Earlier this month I made a pilgrimage to Borrowdale in the Lake District, a beautiful area and home to some of the most amazing trees in the UK. I went in search of some amazing ancient Yew trees, described by the Poet Wordsworth as ‘the Fraternal Four’ – though there are now only three.

Tony with the oldest of the Yews

“But worthier still of note
Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale,
Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
Huge trunks! -and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
Up-coiling, and inveterately convolved, –
Nor uninformed with Fantasy, and looks
That threaten the profane;”

It is hard to believe that these three trees are not signposted, despite one of the trees being named by the Tree Council and selected as one of the 50 Great British Trees recognised to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. Difficult to find the only ‘threat’ to these trees being the 140 inches of rainfall and the harsh growing conditions. I took with me a superb account from Toby Hindson (you can download it here) who in 2012 recorded in detail the condition of the remaining trees.

dry River bed walk inWe arrived in the Borrowdale valley armed with our directions yet still found them difficult to locate, I called to a group of walkers across a field of grazing sheep “are you searching for the Yews?” not realising that they probably thought “Ewes”… Carolyn was in hysterics.

After consulting the OS map we identified the location and set off alongside a dry river bed, the hillside was deep with ferns and dry as tinder. The route up the Trees is over granite Talus and they are growing on and between the large stones, the largest tree growing over a large rounded boulder.

Inside a hollow with new growth in the canopyThe three trees grow close to each other and create a strange mystical atmosphere under the canopy. I had an amazing feeling of euphoria during the whole time I was among the ancients, my friends simply could not believe that they were stood in visible history, they too were entranced.  In 2005 the crown of the oldest tree literally ‘snapped’ off. It lies alongside the bulk of the tree as a white skeleton. The deadwood on the main tree is something to behold, bleached white by the sun it’s a great model for bonsai. All the trees are hollow the oldest is so large that 6 persons can easily stand inside, the other two trees display copious deadwood that is not bleached white but rotting brown. All have low hanging branches that are regenerating.

In the book “The Sacred Yew” Alan Meredith considered these trees to be Neolithic, the National Trust approximately 2500 I am with Meredith, these trees are ancient. From my own experience and visits to many old and ancient Yews in the UK including the Fortigall Yew at Glen Lyon, these trees may well be over 5000 years old.

Next time you venture into the Lake District take the time to visit The ancients, you will not be disappointed.