Yew tree could be London’s oldest

This Is Local London: Low maintenance: experts think  this tree could be 2,000 years old Low maintenance: experts think this tree could be 2,000 years old

The oldest tree in London could be looming large in the grounds of a Totteridge church.

The ancient Yew tree, growing in the churchyard of St Andrew’s, in Totteridge Lane, could be as many as 2,000 years old, according to specialists.

Experts from the Conservation Foundation, the Ancient Yew Group, and tree officers from Barnet Council confirmed last week the tree could outdate any other living specimens in the borough and possibly London.

The tree, which measures about 25ft in circumference, is thought to have been a focal point for generations of settlements long before the church was built in the 18th Century.

Libby Symon, project manager for the conservation foundation, said: “It can be difficult to date ancient Yews because of the way they hollow out as they age, but by taking other readings from parts of the tree we can confirm it dates back however many years.

“The Totteridge Yew is a fantastic tree and even more impressive because it is so close to the metropolis of London.

“Yews are very picturesque and have their own characteristics, and this is a lovely heirloom in the parish, which has been around as long as the church itself.”

The earliest records of the tree’s girth were made by Sir John Cullum in 1677, who measured it at 26ft.

The site of the tree was used as a meeting point for primitive court hearings known as “hundred courts”, and a baby, later named Henry Totteridge and raised by the parish, was found abandoned under the Yew in 1722.

Keith Taggart has been a member of St Andrew’s since 1961. He said: “The tree gives a little distinction to our church. It is an important feature of the village environment and seems to grow quite happily on its own without much maintenance.”

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