Herbalism | Trees | Wheel of the Year

Spring 2014 – The Borrowdale Yews

March 29, 2014

As we crawled at a few miles per hour towards the dead end that is Seathwaite in the Borrowdale valley we kept our spirits up and our frustration levels down by focusing on the end point – a set of three yew trees which I knew to be of ancient origin. They were among the oldest trees in the country, and I wanted to see them on this special “gateway” day, because the yew tree was such an important part of the start of my ritual year. Kal was excited too. Over the years he’s grown to like visiting these ancient trees, and now he was curious to see what these old specimens might have to offer.

The rain got worse. The tractor pulling a trailer was going our way – all the way to the end of the road! We parked at the ample parking area – no other visitors today – then got kitted out with waterproof gear. Luckily for Kal I had a new waterproof coat that I wanted to test out. He got to wear that and it was excellent. The rain was now horizontal and coming in waves of deep powerful droplets which soaked anything they touched. I asked Kal one last time if he wanted to brave these elements – the water angel’s expression of herself in full glory. Amazingly, he said he did, so we headed off on the well-signed path across the fledgling River Derwent – a river which I knew well from my childhood.

Borrowdale Yews - Spring Equinox 2014 (9) (Large)

The Fraternal Four – Now Three

The yews were easily spotted despite the terrible conditions and the proclivity to keep our heads down. They stood majestically and apart from other trees of lesser standing. As we approached up the incline we saw the information sign which gave us a timeline for their existence. On a sunny day this might have been fun to read. We moved on. Facts and figures were irrelevant to our meeting.

We visited each of the remaining three yew trees in turn. Each had their own character, and each revealed something which could be immediately tested at the next tree. My meditation was a series of incredibly profound experiences, and so informative. Read on to find out what these ancient yews told me.


The first tree I felt inclined to approach was the largest. It seemed devoid of bark – pale and stripped bare of all outer clothing – just soft splintered wood sculpted into grooves by the effects of weathering. Today’s weather only re-enforced this.

  • I got a deep connection
  • I listened with my ear against its trunk, and spread my senses out deliberately to pass into the aura of the tree.
  • I felt its heartbeat and matched my breathing to its rhythm. The slowness of the rhythm was at the very ends of my breathing capacity. Innnnn………       …       …….oouuuutttttttt      ……..     …   iiiiinnnnnnnn    …….   ……    ….
  • It made for an amazingly deep connection
  • I realised that this was a technique to use with any yew tree (or my yew staff too)

Borrowdale Yews - Spring Equinox 2014 (12) (Large)

With this idea still fresh in my mind I moved to the next tree – the one furthest from the path. Kal was already there, and as I approached he seemed to wake and stir as though out of a reverie. His head lifted to acknowledge my approach and he said to me “This one makes you feel sleepy. I could have stayed there for ages.” and then he moved away to visit a different tree.


  • I got into trance easily, and it began to talk as soon as I matched its heartbeat with my breathing.
  • It told me about the skill of propagation. For the yew this meant something physical, where a branch would be sent to the ground to take root and form a new tree.
  • For me, energetically, propagation meant leaving a “fix point” or “anchor point” – an energetic connection with a sacred place.
  • I asked what the purpose might be – there were many uses for this: re-visiting, remote viewing what was happening at the place, extracting energy from or donating energy to a connected place.

Borrowdale Yews - Spring Equinox 2014 (7) (Large)

I took this knowledge with me as I moved slowly to the sheltering branches of the next tree, whose dark shade was a refreshing shelter from the incessant rainfall.


  • I connected with the breathing slowness, and then left an energy connection at the tree – protecting it so that it wouldn’t be used by anyone else.
  • This tree talked to me about how to generally make a good meaningful and lastingly deep connection with yew trees.
  • I am invited to eat the “apples” of the tree – its red fruit – the only edible part of the yew that isn’t at some level toxic.
  • As this was an ingrained childhood fear I am now determined to do this once the fruits appear in the summer, but I will have to study this carefully, and to find some old recipes to ensure that I do it safely.

We made our way back to the car, buoyed up by our amazing interactions with these ancient trees, and certain that we now could not get any wetter than were already were. Soon we were heading back east towards Penrith where we intended to visit Long Meg and Her Daughters – a massive stone circle with some nearby caves.

As we headed east the rain continued, and I wondered whether I would get the chance to meet any more elemental angels on this already productive Spring Equinox day.


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