St.Andrews Churchyard


Our present church building is old- mostly 600-700 years but on a site used by Christians since 1200 AD at least. Our churchyard is even older and has been the site of Christian usage for nearly 1000 years although the regular practice of marking graves with headstones and crosses only started in the 1700s.

The Living Past

The areas near the church surrounded by stone walls enclose a remarkable collection of plants and creatures largely untouched by modern farming methods-no herbicides, no pesticides and no tractors. Earlier generations kept the meadows short by grazing sheep and geese and later the scythe was used at the end of the summer when the grasses and flowers had formed seed heads. So our churchyard is an unique living record of the plants and creatures that used to be common in the Kenn valley years ago. It is home to the yellow meadow ants, a resident badger, green woodpeckers and nuthatches and a host of spring wild daffodils and summer meadow flowers.


Most of the trees have been planted on purpose by parishioners in the past often to commemorate some great event or to remember a particular person. Take a look at
the Tulip and Monkey Puzzle trees as well as counting all the yews.

Kenn’s Great Yew - Taxus Baccata

Our large and ancient yew tree is among the oldest in England. The Conservation Foundation have certified it to be over a 1000 years old. Yew expert Allan Meredith believes it could be nearer 2000 years old.

Yew trees are Firs that grow slowly. They were found all over Europe, often planted in groves where they were thought to have spiritual properties. In Devon many old Yew trees are found in churchyards near medieval churches. Some people think Yews mark pre-christian holy sites that were adopted by the early church in the sixth century.

Yews have a broad canopy in old age and the trunk can become hollowed out. Indigenous English Irises are often found beneath the canopy. It is not clear if this has any special significance.

The wood of Yew trees is yellow, wrapped around a dark brown centre. Timber cut longitudinally to include both parts can be very flexible and because of its springiness was used to make powerful long bows for the English in the medieval wars against France.

Yew trees are either mal or female and have fleshy red seeds. Most parts of the tree are very poisonous paralysing the heart but the chemical Taxine extracted from Yes has been used as chemotherapy against cancer.

This online article published tells more of the ancient Yew trees and includes photos of our ancient giant -