The Yew Tree & Holy Well, Hope Bagot
by Allen Meredith
The churchyard at Hope Bagot, Shropshire must be one of the most holy places in Britain, but it is little known. The yew tree is on the very edge of the churchyard, on the north side, about 24 feet in girth and perhaps 35 feet high. It is hollow on one side but gradually being reinforced by spiral or aerial stems reaching towards the base of the hollow trunk. There is a spring or holy well just below the yew, down the bank and near the roadside; and another source across the road, with Victorian stonework. A strange incident happened when I visited this site in August 1984. I had just carefully taken some samples from the yew for radiocarbon dating, when one sample fell from my grasp and slowly rolled over the bank at the base of the tree, down the slope, to end up inside the very small entrance to the well where the water is hidden away.
I felt that there were elements of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, about this yew, its roots nourished by this special well descend deep into the earth; it is the Tree of the Three Fruits long searched for in legend (the apple, the acorn and the kernel) and I have seen fruits on the tree in all four seasons. After leaving Hope Bagot I knew that the churchyard of St John the Baptist, with its ancient yew and holy well, was a very sacred site.
Text © Allen Meredith (1986)
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