Living history

BBC News: Ancient tree ‘one of UK’s best’

An ancient Perthshire yew has made the top 10 in a list of the most important trees in the UK. The Fortingall Yew, which grows at a churchyard near Aberfeldy, could be up to 5,000 years old and is among the oldest living organisms in Europe.

Local legend has it that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus, was born in its shade and played there as a child. It is heading a list of 22,000 trees being compiled by the Woodland Trust. The document is being drawn up to highlight the need to protect the UK’s trees.

A tree that’s five thousand years old, the mind boggles. What was it like in 3000BC when that tree first put out leaves?

We used to go to Thetford Forest when I was a child, I remember Dad lighting one of those portable gas stoves with the blue cannisters in a clearing covered with pine needles, and Mum sitting in the boot of a huge light blue car drinking tea from a thermos flask. The forest was a haven for red squirrels. It was created after World War I so nothing in there would be in the list of ancient trees. Grimes Graves, a neolithic flint mine, is in the forest, we visited there and I freaked out about being so far underground.