#898 Available

 Pippy Yew and Gun Metal Fountain Pen

Price ~ £45

YEW (Taxus baccata)
Mature trees can grow to 20m (65 ft). The bark is reddish-brown with purple tones, and peeling. The yew is probably the most long lived tree in northern Europe, it can reach 400 to 600 years of age. There are ten yew trees in Britain that are believed to predate the 10th Century.

The leaves are straight, small needles with a pointed tip and coloured dark green above and green-grey below. They grow in two rows on either side of each twig.

The flowers are visible in March and April, the male flowers are white-yellow globe like structures and the female ones are bud like and scaly, green when young becoming brown and acorn like with age.

Unlike many other conifers, the common yew does not actually bear its seeds in a cone, instead each seed is enclosed in a red, fleshy, berry like structure known as an aril, which is open at the tip.

The yew is commonly found growing in southern England, it is often used as a hedging plant and has long been planted in churchyards.

Yew hedges are incredibly dense, offering protection and nesting opportunities for many birds. The fruit is eaten by birds such as the blackbird, mistle thrush and small mammals such as squirrels and dormice. The leaves are eaten by caterpillars.

Yew trees have long been associated with churchyards and there are at least 500 churchyards in England which contain yew trees older than the building itself. It is not clear why, but it has been suggested that yew trees were planted on the graves of plague victims to protect and purify the dead, but also graveyards were inaccessible to cows, which would die if they ate the leaves.

Yew trees were used as symbols of immortality, but also seen as omens of doom. For many centuries it was the custom for yew branches to be carried on Palm Sunday and at funerals. In Ireland it was said that the yew was 'the coffin of the vine', as wine barrels were made of yew staves.

Yew timber is rich orange-brown in colour, closely grained and incredibly strong and durable. Traditionally the wood was used in turnery to make long bows and tool handles. One of the world's oldest surviving artefacts is a yew spear head, found in 1911 at Clacton-on-sea in Essex. It is estimated to be about 450,000 years old. 

"Pippy" is a form of defect - or character - in the wood where it looks as though the wood has a case of the measles with little spots dotting throughout the grain.

Pen #898 was turned on 27th October 2017 at Bugbrooke on the Grand Union Canal.

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