Ancient yew tree, Llangernyw
This tree is a remarkable living survivor from prehistoric times. It probably germinated in the Bronze Age, about 4,000 years ago. Today it’s situated in the grounds of St Digain’s Church, but it was already c.2,000 years old by the time Jesus Christ was born!
Yew trees survive by regenerating. The centre of the Llangernyw yew is a void, where the original growth has died back over the millennia. Younger wood grows around the void, drawing nutrients from the prehistoric roots.
Celts regarded the yew as a sacred tree, and were fascinated by its ability to die and re-grow. The area around the Llangernyw yew may have been used for worship before Christianity came to Wales, with the site later being adopted for Christian purposes. Whatever the sequence of events, instead of a yew being planted near a church (as was common across Britain), this church was ‘planted’ near a yew.
The tree’s significance wasn’t realised until the 1990s – and then an oil tank which had long sat in the hollow centre was swiftly removed! In 2002 the Tree Council designated this yew one of 50 Great British Trees.
Poet Margaret Sandbach, of nearby Hafodunos Hall, described a funeral here in 1852: “I was walking down to the village one day in the spring – there had been a heavy shower, and a beautiful and striking scene met my eye as I approached the church. There was a funeral – and under the old yew tree a dark group of mourners had gathered around the grave – a gleam of light fell upon the spot – a rainbow made a bright arch above, and the misty shower was fading away on the hills. Earth and heaven seemed blended then – the dark group below – the brightness above. It was perfectly calm too, and not a sound disturbed the solemnity of the scene...”
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