West Sussex druid talks about the power of local ancient yew forest

Great Yew Kingley Vale Photo Edward Parker
Great Yew Kingley Vale Photo Edward Parker

Following the shortlisting of an ancient yew for a national award, one of the trees oldest enthusiasts described their devotion to what they believe is more than just a tree.

Deep in the woods of Kingley Vale sits an ancient grove of yew trees, some aged between 750 and 2,000 years old.

One particular yew at the nature reserve, known as the Great Yew, caught the attention of the media this week after the Woodland Trust shortlisted it for the Tree of the Year Award 2019.

Over the years the species has gained an eerie reputation as it is often found it graveyards and sprouts poisonous fruit from its spindly branches but this has not deterred a group of loyal visitors have been coming to the site since before the Romans, according to folklore.

To this day, a group of about 30 druids meet at the Great Yew in Kingley Vale regularly and on dates of importance such as the upcoming Samhain, also known as Halloween.

The practise is based on a close and spiritual relationship with nature. Druids will take part in a number of rituals and practises that are usually kept secret.

Druid, medium and shaman-in-training Sherry Gewitzke said the site is very important to the group of druids who meet there.

She said: "When you are in a group of people like that it's magical. The trees are beautiful and they hold a lot of knowledge. You can't imagine it.

"Some times you can stand in a cathedral and be blown away at how beautiful it is but if you can surround yourselves in an enclosed grove of trees — some people come away and they say 'wow there is such a power there'."

Druids have been practising for about 3,000 years and can be traced back to the bronze age, Sherry said.

Read more about the Great Yew's shortlisting here: Kingley Vale tree shortlisted for 'Tree of the Year' award