Hidden away on the grounds of the historic St Edward’s Church Stow-on-the-Wold is a mystical doorway on its north porch that looks like a portal that could transport you to another realm.
I’m not going to do the “it inspired Tolken’s Doors of Durin”. That’s as corny as King Charles I slept in ten thousand pubs while being chased by Cromwell bandwagon. Just enjoy this for what it is.
The studded door panels are flanked by a couple of yew trees with a lamp hanging above the doorway. It is for some an invite to enter. For others its an invite to allow the imagination to run wild.
Not a lot is actually known about the origins of this medieval church, but there is evidence to suggest that there has been a holy temple on this site since 708 AD. It has certainly seen a lot of life, and death with its history swathed in lore and legend.
The churchyard itself is full of interesting grave markers and monuments to the dead. There are also a number of very mature yew threes. It’s quite interesting how these trees have wrapped themselves around the door without demolishing the porch.
Most people think that yew trees are slow growing. While they can live for as much as three thousand years, they do grow quite quickly. Its just that most churchyards trim and shape the yew trees each year.
We all know that yew three were used for making longbows, but English yew trends to be not so straight grained. Ironically French yew is excellent for English longbows.
The yew tree is another of our native trees which the Druids held sacred in pre-Christian times. They no doubt observed the tree’s qualities of longevity and regeneration. Drooping branches of old yew trees can root and form new trunks where they touch the ground. Thus the yew came to symbolise death and resurrection in Celtic culture. This is why yew trees have established a popular association with old churches in Britain.
We also know that yew trees are quite toxic, especially the needles. In fact, just about every part of the yew tree is poisonous, even the wood dust, if accidentally inhaled, another reason why the yew may have gained its reputation as the death tree.
But amidst all this doom and gloom, people have recently attempted to take advantage of the yew tree’s toxicity in an attempt to fight cancer.
The chemical taxol, found in the bark of some yews was discovered to inhibit cell growth and division. It was therefore put to use in chemotherapy, halting the production of cancer cells.