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Resurrection for Malaga yew

09 January 2008

by Bill Bowder

A FLOURISHING YEW TREE in an English cemetery in Spain, described on a plaque as “planted on 2 January 2000 to celebrate the millennium and . . . a gift from St Paul’s Cathedral, London”, is an impostor from a garden centre in Henley-on-Thames. The real tree, which should have gone on to survive for hundreds of years, died.

Robin and Sue Rippon, from Oxfordshire, who visited St George’s, Malaga, last year, were sad to see that the original gift from St Paul’s had died and had been cleared away, leaving only the stone plaque. “I asked the current churchwardens and the Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Peter Wolfenden, if they would be happy to see a replacement yew tree in place, and they agreed,” Mr Rippon said.

The original tree was one of 7000 chosen by the naturalist David Bellamy and blessed by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres. It was brought to Malaga by John and Peggy Carswell, worshippers at the chaplaincy, who had seen the trees on a visit to St Paul’s in 1999, and had asked the Bishop whether they could take one home to Spain.

“Unfortunately, the yew tree died. It lasted two or three years, but was very small and didn’t grow. It is likely that, if it had been watered more frequently, it would have survived, but Malaga can be extremely hot in the summer months,” Mr Rippon said.

The Rippons had been unable to contact Professor Bellamy and the Bishop of London. “So, in November, we purchased a yew tree that looked about seven years old and took it to Malaga on the plane.”

The Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd David Hamid, agreed to bless the newly planted tree. Mr Wolfenden said last week that the tree, blessed on Advent Sunday (see photo), when the Bishop visited, was doing well.

“The original plaque is still there, but I think we will add the word ‘recycled’ to show our green credentials.”

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