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Medmenham Beech and Yew

Giant yew - photo by Hilary Beck Burridge, project volunteerThis giant, multi-stemmed beech tree grows on the remains of a prehistoric hillfort called Medmenham Camp. The hillfort was a formidable defensive structure which took advantage of the naturally steep slopes. The manmade banks between 6 and 12 metres wide and 3 metres high are positioned to take make the hillfort quite impenetrable.

The beech tree has numerous stems as it has been felled in the past and resprouted. This was either carried out to provide a regular source of firewood or to produce a hedge along the earthwork in more recent times.

Aging multi-stemmed trees is very difficult - even if you felled the tree there would not be the annual growth rings to count! However, project volunteer Hilary managed to measure a girth of more than six metres, proving that this tree has been around for some time.

In 1887 John Lowe published his book - Yew Trees of Great Britain and Ireland. In it he listed all the sizable yews of the time so it is consequently an invaluable book when researching special trees. He mentions a yew at Medmenham with a girth at 3 feet of 11' 8'' which equates to more than 3½ metres. He recorded a height of 49 feet and the fact that is was not hollow and had a smooth trunk with no spray. His contact for the yew was the Reverend W. Hill.

Another book that is useful for the special tree volunteer is the 1926 Flora of Buckinghamshire by Druce. The Medmenham yew is not mentioned in this later publication and we have not yet had a recording of a big special yew at Medmenham so we presume that it is no longer there ... or can you prove otherwise?

If you think you have found the Medmenham yew then please get in touch.

The woods around Medmenham inspired a local artist to make this glass sculpture which was exhibited in the 2008 Special Woods Art Exhibition:

'Connect' by Lesley Allen-Dring



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