Champion Trees

Champion Trees

Someone recently bought me the book 'Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland - The Tree Register Handbook' by Dr Owen Johnson MBE. The online equivalent is here. Part of the book is a guide to visiting Britain & Ireland's finest specimens, listing trees by region and county. There are over 5,000 listed, so I thought it would be fun to see how many I could visit!

I was in Derbyshire the other weekend, and had the opportunity to visit two ancient Yew trees that are now positioned within the grounds of local Parish churches. The interesting thing about Yew trees in churchyards, is that people often assume that the Yew tree was planted when the church was built. Actually, in many cases, the Church was positioned there because the Yew tree was there already. This is because Yew trees were used by Druids as a sacred place to perform rituals, and the incoming Christians wanted to stop all of that. Rather than chopping the trees down, they built the churches there instead. Now, I'm not a historian so I'd love someone more knowledgeable than me to provide a more accurate/detailed explanation!

So we visited two ancient Yews in Brailsford and Shirley parish churches. The very first tree for me to visit from this book ended up being a real adventure, when we met Ray Jones, the church warden and local undertaker. The local funeral business has been in his family for 155 years, and is set to be taken on by his daughter, so will continue to remain in the family for the foreseeable future. Ray told us interesting tales of yesteryear, let my children play on the church organ (which was installed by his father during the First World War!), showed us a viking relic in the graveyard and posed in front of the tree.

What a great start to my 'Champion Tree Journey'. Here's hoping I'll end up having equally interesting experiences as I work my way through the book - watch this space!

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