Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Defynnog Yew

Various newspapers have carried the story of dating of the yew tree in the churchyard of St Cynog's church at Defynnog in mid-Wales which is believed to be about 5000 years old.

The yew in Defynnog, which could have been 
a sapling in the 
Bronze Age

 The Defynnog Yew

Image:Daily Telegraph

The well illustrated Daily Mail report can be read at 'Britain's oldest tree' is discovered in a Welsh churchyard - and it's more than FIVE THOUSAND years old.

The Daily Telegraph has followed up its account with a longer and very interesting article about the various examples of ancient, indeed very ancient yew trees, especially in Wales by Clive Aslet. This can be read at The ancient, sacred, regenerative, death-defying yew tree.

There is another illustrated online account of the tree at Defynnog - The Ancient Yew, and more pictures of it at Yew near the border of the church St. Cynog in Defynnog.

What is striking is the implication of continuity of not merel the tree, and of humans around it, but the idea that it may have been planted as a memorial or as a ritual feature. If so then it suggests - and one cannot, of course, say more than that - a continuity of some ritual tradition in and around the site of St Cynog's. Such an enduring tradition that is not just the conversion of a pagan site to a Christian one - well known in many cases - but the recognition of "sacred-space" and its enduring character gives considerable historical and anthropological food for thought - but best not to literally chew upon knowing the properties of yew berries.

A 5,000-year-old yew grows by Defynnog’s church

The Church of St Cynog and the yew tree

Image:Huw Evans/thesundaytimes.co.uk

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