Churchyard yew tree saved from the axe

The yew tree at Holy Cross Church. Photograph by Ron Hill
The yew tree at Holy Cross Church. Photograph by Ron Hill

A century-old yew tree outside Holy Cross Church, Uckfield, has been reprieved from the chop, thanks to a vote by Uckfield town councillors.

The request was made for safety concerns and a church report that people had slipped on berries and fallen needles from the tree in the autumn and winter.

It was the responsibilty of the council but if the tree was to be felled permission would first need to be given by Wealden District Council. Although the tree does not have a Preservation Order, the churchyard is in the town’s Conservation Area.

At Monday’s Environment and Leisure Committee meeting, members discussed the plan and considered alternative ways to help people using the path when the tree sheds its berries. This could include extra sweeping, anti-slip solutions, signs and the installation of a handrail.

Cllr Diane Ward said she was ‘shocked and stunned’ that anyone could want to see the tree felled.

Cllr Ian Smith (Independent, Ridgewood) told the Express: “Have you seen Facebook? There was a storm of disapproval. I think this is a victory for common sense. Perhaps the church was a bit over-zealous, but then they have to take care of their congregation and I can completely understand their concerns. There are other yew trees in the churchyard but this is a lovely one and we are pleased we can save it.”

Committee chairman Cllr Mick Dean introduced the topic and said costings have been obtained to install a handrail. He said: “The yew tree is about 107 years old, a mere stripling compared with some with go back almost 1,000 years. I was quite adamant it should stay and we should look at alternatives. Perhaps people could also take responsibility for where they walk now and then too?

“We sweep the churchyard fortnightly and perhaps, when berries drop, we will then sweep it every week.”

Cllr Barry Mayhew said: “There are lots of alternatives to cutting the tree down - for example, sweeping more frequently, putting in a handrail for people to hold on to and installing warning signs.”

Assistant Town Clerk Christine Wheatley pointed out the council doesn’t need planning permission to put in a handrail.