Where to see yew trees in Buckinghamshire
PUBLISHED: 12:45 22 May 2017
With many well over 1,000 years old, these fascinating trees have stood the test of time and ‘assaults’ over the centuries by generations of people
With their deserved reputation for longevity, it’s not surprising that yew trees fascinate us humans who might clock up a tenth of the age of these sprightly evergreens… if lucky. And even after a millennium, some are still going strong. So we should not be surprised that so many are found in conservation areas of Buckinghamshire’s villages, in formal gardens and, of course, churchyards.
In some cases it’s a lone yew, left to twist and turn and survive the battering of big storms over the centuries, or even get going again after being struck by lightning or chopped down to little more than a stump by long since departed humans who decided it was taking up too much room or they had a good use for its wood.
But you’ll also find clipped yew, particularly thick and fat hedges, around the county, and one of the finest examples of what yew can do when given the chance is found at Shalstone in Aylesbury Vale. This small and very attractive village to the west of Stowe has some notable trees, including Giant Redwoods, among the first to be brought here from the United States, in the grounds of Shalstone Manor, home of the Purefoy family.
Even so, we think Shalstone’s crowning glory must surely be the formidable yew hedge at the church of St Edward the Confessor. The church itself has some 15th century parts but was virtually rebuilt 190 years ago.
But not all yews have such a happy fate. Statues of seven Saxon deities at Stowe were first installed there in 1727, eventually ending up in the Grecian Valley some 50 years later. A yew tree was planted next to each statue but did rather too well – they were judged to be creating gloomy shadows over the statues and so were felled.
One of the most interesting uses of yew is at Cliveden, where a 500 metres winding maze opened six years ago. It replaced one formed in 1894, but only a few yew trees remained on the site. A sketch drawn by the 1st Viscount Astor was used to recreate it, using 1,100 yews.
Your nearest yew
If you are a fan of older yew trees, it’s easy to visit one in our county, perhaps finding out more of its history beforehand at ancient-yew.org. As well as at Shalstone, the ancient, veteran or notable yews they have recorded within the county are at the following sites:
• Chesham and Chesham Bois
• Langley Park
• The Lee
• Little Missenden
• Stoke Hammond
• Stoke Poges
• Taplow Court
• West Wycombe