How old do you think Britain’s oldest living tree is? As a commercial arborist we should know really shouldn’t we?! Apparently it’s 4,000 years old but unfortunately, it’s thought to be dying! The tree in question is a beautiful Ashbrittle Yew in Somerset which resides in the Church of St John the Baptist’s churchyard and is an astounding 38ft. The tree was already pretty mature when Stonehenge was being built!
Over its 4,000 year old life a vast canopy has emerged from the tree which arches over the pathway creating a stunning visual. However, the custodian there has warned that the tree could be sick, possibly due to disease and on its last legs because it has wilting branches, falling leaves and a hollow trunk with six smaller ones branching off it.
However, there may be hope for the tree yet as there’s some disagreement over whether the Ashbrittle Yew is actually sick or not. Despite the custodian saying the tree looks sick, a tree expert has said that trees often go through spells where they may not look so great but can come back around.
We hope the Ashbrittle Yew does survive as there are a lot of myths that surround it. One interesting legend is that the mound it grows on is Bronze Age and that a pre-Roman chief is buried there! It’s also one of the Tree Register’s “Champion Trees.”
One of the dangers that can happen to yews is that people would assume they were dying and then cut them down unnecessarily. Of course, any competent tree surgeon or commercial arborist would thoroughly assess the tree before deciding to fell. Let’s hope the Ashbrittle lives for another 4,000 years!