Aberglasney's Yew Tunnel Restored
15 Oct 2008
An extensive pruning programme has, over nine years, lovingly returned the unique archway to the form seen in early pictures.
The bid to preserve the 80ft tunnel for future generations has involved some extreme corrective action. Years of neglect had left it unsafe and with a perilous future, as the once formally clipped structure had grown even higher than the top of the Mansion itself.
The yews were drastically cut back in the summer of 1999, amid a storm of protest from critics who claimed it to be an act of vandalism.
But regular and carefully-phased pruning strengthened and rejuvenated the structure, which is believed to be the only yew tunnel in Britain planted as a single row. It now proudly stands as one of the most stunning attractions in the gardens, proving the critics wrong.
Aberglasney’s Director of Operations, Graham Rankin, said:
“After nine years of careful restoration on the unique Yew Tunnel at Aberglasney, it is having its first light clip, for possibly 60 years.
There was much controversy over the restorative process – even The Conservation Foundation, co-founded by Prof. David Bellamy started raising concerns back in 1995 about its future management. One of their ‘experts’ thought that ‘it may possibly be not only the oldest yew tunnel in Britain still existing, but the oldest yew anywhere in the world. Since that time dendochronology has proved it to be a comparative but venerable youngster at around 280 years of age.
It is so nice to see it looking invigorated and healthy again, I had every confidence that with careful restoration it would help its future longevity, but I have to confess that it did look drastic at the time. It is nice to know that there were many people who took such an interest in its proper preservation and protection, but I can assure you know one was more concerned than me.”
Yew trees live for centuries and can be difficult to date. The six or so making up Aberglasney’s tunnel had fooled experts into declaring they were over a thousand years old, but it is now widely acknowledged that they were planted by Robert Dyer, brother of the poet John Dyer during rebuilding work at the front of the Mansion. Making them only a few hundred years old.
The tunnel was formed by bending over the tops of the trees to make an arched garden feature. Over the centuries the branches fused together and the tops rooted to form a living tunnel.
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