Diocesan press releases

Royal visit to Conwy’s ancient Yew Tree

The Bishop of St Asaph has welcomed HRH The Prince of Wales to a church in Conwy, home to an ancient Yew Tree, thought to be almost 5,000 years old.

The Rt Revd Gregory Cameron joined the Vicar of Llangernyw, the Revd Gwenda Cooper at St Digain’s Church, a stopping point on the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way.

The tree, which is believed by some to be the oldest living thing in the UK, is still growing in the sixth century churchyard and draws hundreds of pilgrims and visitors each year.

Bishop Gregory, who was among a group to welcome Prince Charles to the church, said: “Christian worship has taken place on this site at Llangernyw since the fifth century, yet this Yew Tree seems to pre-dates those early Christians by several thousand years.

“This Yew Tree is an important feature and landmark on the 130-mile North Wales Pilgrim’s Way, which links the ruin of Basingwerk Abbey near Holywell with Bardsey Island off the Llyn Peninsula.”

After visiting the tree and hearing more about the science behind the aging of the tree, from Toby Hindson co-founder of the Ancient Yew Group, Prince Charles saw the listed 6th Century crossed stones, before heading inside the church to meet members of the local community.

The visit to the village of Llangernyw was organised by the Vicar, Gwenda Cooper.  She said: “It was an honour to welcome Prince Charles to our village, show him our treasured Yew Tree and introduce him to the many people who run so many organisations and groups which keeps our community thriving.

“The Yew Tree in our churchyard is a very visual reminder that we, as the church, are custodians of our nation’s history and heritage.  We take our responsibilities very seriously and encourage as many people as possible, be they pilgrims or tourists, to visit our church and reflect on the many people who have passed through this place over the centuries.”

After visiting the church, His Royal Highness met staff and pupils of Ysgol Bro Cernyw, the local primary schools, who have recently performed at the Urdd Eisteddfodd in Builth Wells.  The pupils sang for Prince Charles before he visited the Old Stag pub, next door.

Among the others who welcomed and met Prince Charles in Llangernyw were Diviana Fetherstonhaugh, Wife of the Lord Lieutenant, Councillor Garfield Lloyd Lewis, County Councillor for Llangernyw, Einir Williams, Chairperson of Llangernyw Community Council, Alan Benbow, Church Lay Reader, the church wardens at St Digain’s Mary Hindley and Paul Bishop, Susan Rimmer and Ann Hughes from the village quilting group, Dr Richard Wood, owner of Hafodunos Hall and a member of the village Gardening Club, Sue Last, co-founder of the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way and Jane Roberts, founder of the village’s Merched y Wawr.

St Digain’s is part of the Aled Mission Area in the Diocese of St Asaph, one of the six diocese in the Church in Wales, an independent Province of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

ENDS

Facts about the Llangernyw Yew Tree and St Digain’s Church:

The Llangernyw Yew is thought to have been planted sometime in the prehistoric Bronze Age — and it’s still growing!

The Yew Tree is the oldest in Wales and amongst the oldest trees in Europe.

It puts down new roots through branches which touch the ground.

St Digain’s and its Yew Tree is an important landmark on the 130-mile way marked route of the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way: http://www.pilgrims-way-north-wales.org/index.html

The church is named after 5th century saint, Digain. But unusually, the village of takes the name of his father, St Cernyw.

The church oil tank used to be stored in the middle of the tree before the yew’s significance was realised in the 1990s.

In 2002, in celebration of the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the tree was designated as one of 50 Great British trees by the Tree Council.