When my good friend suggested a trip over to Doveridge, I had to think about why on earth we would want to go there. I know the village vaguely, its sort of that place that you see in a blur as you drive through it on the way to Ashbourne. If I thought any deeper about it, it must somehow be connected to the river Dove that flows through Derbyshire, but that’s it. Nothing else of any importance.
We headed over there, both of us armed with cameras and she took me down to the river – yay, the Dove as promised, and little suspension bridge there, aw, that was an unexpected surprise, and even better that the sun was shining through the clouds even if there was a cold nip in the air. We were five minutes there, if that, cos there wasn’t much else to look at after the bridge, and walked back up the lane towards the church. I like old churches, for the sense of history more than the actual religious side of it, and took a few photos of the gateway with the dappled sunlight on the old stone steps. And then, walked on, and stopped dead in my tracks.
She hadn’t warned me about this.
Wow! I’ve never seen anything like it.
It was old, that was obvious, but when we read the sign by it I hadn’t realised HOW old. Old and very infirm, this gentle magnificent creature. It had been there an awfully long time. And it needed gentle support to aid it. Otherwise it would have torn itself to pieces. I felt an awe there in its shadows and wanted to touch, I so wanted to touch it, and laid my hand gently on it feeling its life within.
And then my friend said the magical words… “You can go inside”. “Can we?” I asked in surprise, and she smiled as she walked me around, to the other side, the open side, the side that revealed all the innermost secrets and I looked in wide eyed wonder again at what had opened up infront of me and looked up and said “I thought you were joking” and she smiled as I took a step further and went in, looking all around me, and up, at the sky above. I was inside. Inside a living tree.
The churchyard yew according to the sign, was thought to be more than four hundred years old, wow, yep, by a thousand years!
And also according to the sign Robin Hood had married under it. Ok, well, maybe he did who am I to argue that point.
But what fascinated me, on this sunny day that picked up the shadows, and light, and tones of colours, and hinted at heads of serpents, skulls, elephant heads, and wraithful faces, and many writhing bodies was that this was the most beautiful sculpture I had ever seen. Far better than anything carved my man. Nature had made this fabulous work of art, and I was inside it. I think it was the unexpectedness of it that also struck me. I had had no prior warning at all of its existence. From the road outside it was a yew tree like many old churchyards have, but it was the feeling of being enveloped by it as you walked under its many heavy branches, and the way it had toppled over some of the gravestones under it, and the immensity of it, that I found incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a tree like it anywhere.
I love wood, I love things made of wood, I love to see wood, and feel it, but I have never ever seen wood formed in such a way, by itself.