Friday, July 22, 2016

Brimpsfield, Gloucestershire

Grow your own arches

The other night I gave a talk in the Cotswold village of Brimpsfield and, arriving early as I often do, had time for a short walk around before I was due to set up my projector and get on my hind legs to speak. Beautiful as is the stone architecture of the place, I was particularly struck by the series of arches through which the path to the church runs. These arches are not made of stone or any other masonry, but out of yew trees, pairs of them artfully clipped into large rectangles with openings in the middle to accommodate the path.

I’m a great admirer of churchyard yew trees, have posted about one particularly ancient specimen before, and can think of few better ways to approach a church than through these arches. They provide not only wonderful greenery, but also green shade (it was a very hot day) and, as you look back westwards towards the setting sun, a backlit rim of pale green around the edge of each opening. In truth, the yews looked as if they needed clipping, but the slightly fuzzy edges only added to their charm.* On a quiet summer’s evening they seemed just right.

- - - - -

*The jasmine round my own front door needs trimming, so I have such tasks on my conscience.


Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

I have a "hedge arch" in my garden: they represent a lot of work by somebody with clippers, and constant vigilance throughout the summer - very much a temporary feature, unless supervised! Yewtree at Seddon's Rock at the Glos. end of Offa's Dyke - in the open cow field, without fencing. But somebody cut off all the lower branches. Architecture at least stays the same size for long periods without pruning.

bazza said...

Yews are very odd and rather difficult to date by the usual methods. Because the are usually so twisted it's difficult to use the usual methods of dendrochronology but being slow-growing they are thought to be able to live for maybe thousands of years. They were planted in graveyards, often long before a church was built on the site. Also, because they are poisonous to cattle they were seen a protection for the graves. Not exactly Buildings but very English!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Peter Ashley said...

Excellent. I've always been fascinated by yews, probably because I spent some time as a young boy up in one opposite my garden gate, spying with my friend on unsuspecting passers-by down on the lane below. Always coming back to earth looking as if we'd been lightly coated with soot. Richard Mabey has a typically engrossing chapter on them in his book The Cabaret of Plants.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Good yew lore, chaps: thank you.