This post is about my frustrations with wood.
You see before you the great yew tree of St Mary’s. It has stood hard by the church’s South Porch for more than 1000 years. It is a magnificent tree.
It is also wounded, and sickly.
One hundred, maybe two hundred, maybe three hundred, years ago, wrought iron bands and staples were bolted into the tree to try to hold it together. Now grown around with wood, the yew is clinging to this elderly corsetry. The huge bole is entirely hollow. It seems a miracle that the weighty, spreading top can be supported by the thin, twisted remains of the trunk. Mary must be looking kindly on the tree.
The latest work to prolong the tree’s life has included considerable surgery. This resulted in a large pile of logs. Raw materials. Fire wood at the least; but hopefully bowls, spoons, hafts and other useful things. But the tree’s illness, its stresses and strains, show through.
The wood is full of shakes, splits and cracks. Look at those rings and stars in the red heartwood. These are causing my frustration.
The creamy sapwood contrasts the red heartwood. I wanted to carve another parti-coloured cannibal fork, like the Elder Fork, so I took a length of branch about 10cm diameter and started to open it up. But the shakes inside the branch extend even to this narrow branch. Hidden splits run through it almost, but not quite, where I wanted to make cuts in the wood.
“Double-fatal yew”. It kills you with poison, it kills you with power – unleashed from a longbow. Something is doing its best to kill the great yew of St Mary’s.