Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Friday, 14 November 2008

The archers

Dum-dee-dum-dee-dum-dee-dum . . . "Er, hello Ruth, that sheep's looking a bit off colour if you ask me." "Oooooh noooo, Bert" . . .

NO NO NO !!!! Not those Archers, I'm talking about this sort of archer . . .

The Luttrell Psalter (Brit. Library), c. 1325-1335

or to be precise, THESE archers . . .

The huge Yew tree just outside my studio door has been admired by many visitors, not least those whose hobby is archery. One visitor to my studio last July was convinced the tree must have been especially coppiced to grow bow wood – I'm not sure whether this can be true, but there's no doubt it's got some long straight branches and that's just what a bow maker needs. So when we obtained planning permission to have some branches trimmed from various trees in the garden some long-bow enthusiasts were able to have one of the long, dead-straight branches for bow making.

This Yew tree is like a cage of giant poles surrounding its ancient stump. The experience of climbing up within the tree will probably give the tree surgeon nightmares of being trapped in a wooden cage and being swallowed by the Druid's tree – hope he doesn't have cheese for supper.

The branch was carefully extracted in 3.5 metre sections between large knots. Now the wood needs to season for three years before work can start on the bows – a long term project, you can't just knock up a bow in five minutes! I've requested an archery lesson using a long-bow made from our Yew wood – in 2012!


  1. How wonderful, to have a tree like that in the garden; even better to get to use a bow made from its wood.

    Yew are my favourite tree, they just exude mystery and timelessness.

  2. I am really thrilled by your story-I love yew trees and all the history they hold.Yew bows are lovely-both my menfolk have had archery phases-but they are hard work to draw. No wonder the archers they found on the Mary Rose had massive shoulders and bow arms.

  3. That is really interesting and how wonderful to have this tree in you garden. I would be so excited!

  4. What a great story! I hope you get invited to the workshop to see them being made!

  5. Wonderful. We have a friend who planted a field of cricket bat willows in Somerset some years ago - the trees grow much quicker than yew, but the time from cutting to bat is similar to your wait for a bow.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the woodcut ...


  6. Celia, I read your blog because I have an interest in cats, gardening, English history, chooks, art, food...how could I have known that, one day, my interest in archery would also be accommodated!
    Long ago, I "drew a bow" but at 5'2" I am not built for the longbow!
    An adjunct: friends in London had a yew in their garden and, with adventurous toddlers, they wanted it removed, but...not only protected, but very old.

  7. What an intriguing thought to have had bows made from that tree in the past! I wonder if there are any local documents that could confirm it. Looking forward to seeing the new bow (eventually).

  8. By the way, many many very belated thanks for mini print and I'm so glad the DVDs helped. Emma x

  9. I must make a note to call back, three years from now!

  10. How amusing thhat there are so many people interested in archery!

    Zoe - I agree, ancient Yews are full of mysterious magic!

    Threadspider - the bowmen must have been a formidable lot!

    Gina - I'm realising that you don't own trees, you care for them while you live alongside them for a while.

    Matron - we hope to get step by step reports of progress!

    Joanna - trees should be managed as a crop - even if they're not harvested for a few generations.

    Moreidlethoughts - any other interests you would like covered? :)

    Hi Emma - nice to have you back in blogland! I'll have to ask one of the local history buffs!

    Thank you Sarah & Jon

    Acornmoon - I posted this on the blog so we'd remember!



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