BOOK REVIEW

The Ancient Yes / Bevan-Jones The Ancient Yew
by Robert Bevan-Jones
pub. Windgather Press, 2002
Paperback, 205 pages, £16.99
ISBN 0 9538630 4 2
www.windgather.co.uk

The author has family traditions in the timber trade and it is perhaps appropriate that someone who appreciates timber, rather than a botanist, should write such a comprehensive book.

The yew is one of Britain's true 'native' trees, the others being oak, elm, ash and hawthorn, and the author draws the reader's attention to it's ancient heritage with details of a yew lance tip found in Essex - the earliest wooden tool ever found in Britain - dating from about 300,000 years BC. And a yew bow about 6000 years old found in Scottish peat bog in the mid 1990s. As the author says: 'Some of the oldest yews in the landscape today were certainly growing before the Norman Conquest'. An amazing thought.

Full of pictures of ancient yews, the book is a fascinating foray into this venerable tree and its impact on our landscape. A seven foot diameter churchyard yew can be around 1500 years old and many are very much older, some of them hollow. Indeed, there is an entire chapter devoted to the 'Churchyard Yew' and many of these are 'named' specimens, such as the Darley Dale Yew or the Selbourne Yew.

In old times it appears that yews were useful markers for wells and springs, where their immense size could offer shelter for those collecting water. Yews were often the meeting points for local Hundreds Courts, and one wonders what harsh justice some of those mighty trees have witnessed ?

For many people the yew is seen as a tree of mystery and magic and Bevan-Jones devotes his penultimate chapter to the yew in our folklore.

Bottom line...
From time to time the text is a little dry but is highly readable, not least because every page of Bevan-Jones' book is packed with facts and information. The book should appeal to anyone with the slightest interest in trees and general arboriculture, and perhaps readers associated subject areas like history and folklore.

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Windgather Press specialises in books on landscape history, landscape archaeology, and the history of Britainís countryside, with the publications designed for those professionally engaged in landscape research or with a serious amateur interest.

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