Legal protection for ancient yew trees

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IN BRITAIN AND PARTICULARLY IN WALES WE HAVE THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF ANCIENT YEWS ON EARTH AND YET THESE TREES HAVE NO LEGAL PROTECTION and could be destroyed without incurring any penalty. Yews, known as immortal giants, are the oldest living trees and as a result of some 40 years research, we believe there are approximately 35 yews in Wales between the ages of 2 and 5,000 years and 82 in the rest of Britain, making a total of 117 yew trees. 3 of the 4 ancient yews over 5,000 years old, are in Wales. The vast majority of these trees are in churchyards.

With the demise of the Church in our times and the closure of many redundant churches, these buildings and some lands, with or surrounded by yews, are being sold off. The need to protect these ancient yew trees, is becoming more urgent with the change in ownership and stewarding. Although in the past, the Church has been responsible for having some yews cut down, on the whole, the yews have been afforded a good degree of protection until now.

There are thousands of yews in Britain of around a thousand years old and it seems unlikely we will ever get protection for them all but we need to at least protect the yews in this truly ancient category of over 2 thousand years of age, for future generations. We need fines that equal those in some parts of Europe, where yews of just a few hundred years are protected with fines of 50,000 euros. Our yew trees are our unique living heritage. All that is available at present to protect them are Tree Protection Orders that carry fines which are not large enough to put off developers and which take a community some effort to obtain, even if they have the time, energy and inclination to do so. What we need is some blanket protection. A list of these ancient yew trees can be found below or at

For thousands of years, the yew was considered sacred in Wales and there were old laws that protected them which date back to Pope Gregory in around 600 AD, the laws of Hywel Dda, in the 10th century and the Synod of Exeter in 1287. At one time, Saint’s yews known as Taxus Sanctus, were considered to have enormous importance and no one dared touch them. These laws were reviewed in the time of Edward 1st in the year 1307 who gave them the Royal Seal of approval and later in the Houses of Parliament in 1781. The law is still active and has never been revoked but there also has never been a test case since those times and so the old laws need to be restated and brought up to date.

Ancient trees are an awesome link with our past history and it is unimaginable, but also entirely possible, that these ancient living monuments could disappear unchallenged. The time to act is now. Please sign our petition to gain proper protection for our ancient yews. Don’t leave it till it is too late.


Britain and in particular Wales, has the largest number of ancient yews in the world. Although there are still undiscovered yews, we now believe that in Wales, there are at least 21 yews aged at 2,000 years plus, 10 of 3,000 years plus, 1 at 4,000 years plus and 3 at 5,000 years plus, totalling 35 yews aged at over 2,000 years in Wales. 

In the rest of Britain we have recorded 82 yews aged at 2,000 years plus. This total is made up of 54 yews aged at 2,000 years plus, 24 at 3,000 years plus, 3 at 4,000 years plus and 1 at 5,000 years plus. 

Numbers of ancient yews for the whole of Britain therefore total 117. These figures are based on current information and may expand further. At some of the places listed here, there are more than 1 ancient yew.


WALES Yews Aged 5,000 years plus (3 yews)

Defynnog, Brecon, Discoed, Powys, Llangernwy, Clwyd.


Aged 4,000 years (1yew)

Bettws Newydd, Monmouthshire.


Aged 3,000 years (10 yews)

Alltmawr, near Builth Wells, Powys, Llanafan Fawr, Powys,

Llanbedr Ystrad Yw, Breconshire, Llandeiniolen, Gwynedd,

Llandre, Cerdigion, Llanfaredd , near Builth Wells, Powys,

Llanfeugan, Breconshire, Llangynyw, Powys,

LLanymawddwy, Gwynedd, Llantrithyd, Glamorgan.


Aged 2,000 years (21 yews)

Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, Clwyd, Llanarth, Gwent,

Llandrillo, Denbighshire, Llanfihangel Nant Melan, Powys,

Llangathen, Carmarthenshire, Llangattock Juxta Usk, Monmouothshire,

Llanilid, Glamorgan, Llanspiddyd, Powys, Maesmynis, Powys,

Mynydd Islwyn, Gwent, Nantmel, Powys,

Pantllidw, Machynlleth, Powys, Pennant Melangell, Powys,

Penpont, Powys, Ystradgynlais, Powys,

Pantybeudy, Llangeithio, Ceredigion,

Gwytheryn, Clwyd, Mamhilad, Gwent, Rhulen, Near Builth, Powys,

Meidrim, Carmarthenshire, Cyffylliog, Clwyd.



In the rest of Britain,

Aged 5,000 years plus (1 yew)

Fortingall, Scotland


Aged 4,000 years plus (3 yews)

Crowhurst, Surrey, Linton, Herefordshire, Tisbury, Wiltshire.


Aged 3,000 years plus (24 yews)

All Hallows, Dorset, Ashbrittle, Somerset, Bulbarrow, Dorset,

Clun, Shropshire, Claverley, Shropshire, Coldwaltham, Sussex,

Druids Grove, Surrey, Farringdon, Hampshire, Kenn, Devon,

Kennington, Kent, Kentchurch, Herefordshire, Knowlton, Dorset,

Long Sutton, Hampshire, Lytchett Matravers, Dorset,

Mansel Gamage Wood, Herefordshire, Norbury, Shropshire,

Old Colwall, Herefordshire, Payhembury, Devon,

Peterchurch, Herefordshire, Stanstead, Kent, Woodcott, Hampshire,

Woolland, Dorset, Whitbury, Dorset, Yazor, Herefordshire.


Aged 2,000 years plus (54 yews)

Acton Scott, Shropshire, Aldworth, Berkshire,

Ankerwycke, near Runnymede Buckinghamshire, Astbury, Cheshire,

Awre, Gloucestershire, Boarhunt, Hampshire, Buckland in Dover, Kent, Burcott Farm, Herefordshire, Buxted, Sussex, Challock, Kent,

Cradley, Worcestershire, Craswall, Herefordshire, Crowhurst, Sussex,

Darley Dale, Derbyshire, Druids Grove, Surrey,

Dunster, Somerset, Elworthy, Somerset, Hambledon, Surrey, Harrietsham, Kent, Hope Bagot, Shropshire, Huntley,Gloucestershire,

Kemble, Cloucestershire, Leeds, Kent, Loose, Kent,

Loughton, Shropshire, Mamhead, Devon, Marston Bigot, Somerset,

Martindale, Cumbria, Merddon Castle, Hampshire, Mid Lavant, Sussex, Middleton Scriven, Shropshire, Molash, Kent, Newlands Corner, Surrey, Old Enton, Surrey, Overton on Dee, Shropshire,

Prior’s Dean, Hampshire, Ulcombe, Kent, Uppington, Shropshire,

West Tisted, Hampshire, Wilmington, Sussex, Wintershall, Surrey,

Rycote Manor, Oxfordshire, Sidbury, Shropshire,

Snoddington Manor, Hampshire, South Hayling, Hampshire,

Staunton, Worcestershire, Stedham, Sussex, Stockbury, Kent,

Tandridge, Surrey, Tangley, Hampshire, Tettenhall, West Midlands, Temple farm, Wiltshire, Totteridge, Hertfordshire,

Zeal Monachorum, Devon.









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