Way back on the 12th March four of us set out for an ancient yew woodland just north east of Chichester. Arrived at the car park at 10.30 and walked beside a few fields to arrive at the National Nature Reserve which is Kingley Vale.
The first yew trees are there immediately, but they are nothing special – seen bigger in a country churchyard. After a while we see into some bigger groves of them, and walk through gaps in their drooping branches to enter the dry bare earth zone underneath the yews. Now we can get close to the trunks and branches.
It was raining a little, but that added to the quality of the wood, and the fresher bark’s redness was stunning. You can see through the branches above to where they dip down to rest on the ground. If they sit there long enough they take root, and as the roots develop they become effectively a new tree. The old core trees don’t really die. They generate aerial roots inside the rotten centre which reach down to the ground and start all over again.
Our druid told us that this makes them impossible to date correctly, and though several have been dated at about 2000 years he said they are really much older. And he’d know, he told us he is third generation Druid for Kingley Vale. Not sure how official that title is. He is the one with the big hood and pointing towards the camera, he is holding a fine yew staff, and has two of his what? Disciples? Fellow druids? with him. Jackie and Marian are the ones on the right. He called himself Pixie. We met them on the path and they followed us, offering information and enlightenment.
This is my Komodo Dragon – yes, its just a bit of tree, sorry. When we got away from Pixie and friends we found a delightful tree with a ring of juniors around it. Difficult to photograph, and the image below is the best I managed.
The parent is in the distance, one offspring is the main up-curved branch, but another (grandson?) is starting by my feet, where you can see a branch on the left dropping down to the ground. I suspect that this makes the tree the ‘grandfather tree’ which several people asked us about, but I was not familiar with this name. Rowena went up the tree, and after a bit of persuasion so did I. Always easier to get up than down, I recalled too late.