More trees


It is autumn, after all. Trees deserve several mentions. I went for a walk yesterday with Ray and Harvey, on a lovely autumn afternoon up through Ormiston Woods to find the yew tree. Ray has lived in East Lothian even longer than I have and, just as I had never seen the twisted pines until recently, Ray had never seen the Ormiston yew. Still, what’s 20 years or so in the life of this remarkable tree, which could be 1000 years old? It is recorded as a landmark as early as 1474 and John Knox preached in its interior at the start of the Reformation. It was presumably planted in the grounds of the original parish kirk, St Giles, which started life at Ormiston Hall rather than in the village of Ormiston. The yew now seems to have two main trunks with the layered branches creating a cathedral-like space. Some snow and storm damage last winter to adjacent trees has partly opened up one side of the yew, letting in far more light than previously.

It is not easy to find unless you know where it is – follow the track south from the main road, keeping to the left all the way, past a ruined doorway from the old church, until you reach a fence on the right with a grassy path on its south side. The yew is at the end of this path, on the north side of a grassy space. You can see from the photograph that it looks like a hedge rather than a tree from the outside – go in through the small entrance and you’ll find another world and a little piece of living history.

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