Overton’s Yew Trees

Pistyll Rhaeadr and Wrexham steeple,
Snowdon’s mountain without its people,
Overton yew trees, St Winifred’s Well,
Llangollen’s Bridge and Gresford’s bells.”

Today we are going to look at another of the 18th century tourist attractions that were the “Wonders of Wales“.

The Yew tree is found in western, central and southern Europe and Britain has many fine examples. The churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Overton contains a notable collection of them.

The big daddy of them all is this fine specimen.

It is believed to be between 1500 and 2000 years old but age is difficult to determine since the boughs become hollow as the tree gets older. You can’t just count the rings because there is unlikely to be any wood that is as old as the whole tree.

Yews are known for their longevity. When the boughs get too heavy the tree can split without succumbing to disease in the fracture. Here the natural processes have been halted by supporting the tree with props.

Yew trees are often associated with churchyards, though the reason is far from clear. The oldest specimens often pre-date the church as is the case in Overton.

If you want to find your own example, the nearest churchyard might be a good place to start. This is what you are looking for. Please note that yews, particularly the needles, are poisonous.

If you fancy hunting down a giant, ancient specimen they are surprisingly common. Follow this link to an interactive map, where you can home in on your locality.