Sunday, 24 November 2013

Churchyard Yew and some Shooting.

I've heard assorted daft opinions and generalisations about English yew and Churchyard Yew.
The cutting of the Yew is blogged here:-
Any wood needs to be viewed on it's own merits.
One piece of the Churchyard yew would probably be dismissed by most people (and was almost ignored by me), yet look at this picture of the narrow end which has been trimmed off as I've started to rough out a bow. You'd have to look at a lot of Yew to find a bit as good as that!
You can see the lower edge has been chaffing against another branch and the bark has worn through. The diameter is so small that the grip of the bow will need to be the full size of the brach and the central pith will be incorporated into the limbs for some length.
Now it may not make a bow, but it certainly has the potential to become a glorious character 'stick' Warbow. Certainly a worthy challenge to a bowyer.

The 130# warbow was collected yesterday, we went out to do some shooting to see it perform. It's difficult to find somewhere to shoot, even our club is a bit short of room for long shots.
We went out to a location where there is a huge expanse of open field with a footpath right across it.
Now, some would throw their hands up in horror at shooting along a public footpath, but before you call the armed response unit, allow me to paint a picture.
We drove about a mile up a dead end road to a farm, then walked half a mile up an ancient cart track with trees along each side, and fields of brassicas (kale?) sprouting on either side. It then opened out onto a vast open plain which was once a WWII airstrip.
Stretching out over the farmland, every 1/4mile or so, posts marked the footpath across the open fields of winter wheat which was just showing a few inches of growth. We walk out about 200 yards where the grass of the path way stopped at the edge of the field where kale gave way to the winter wheat.
Shooting along the path we had a clear view at least a mile and a half in front and a good half mile either side. No hedges, nothing. The only thing that concerned us was walking over the crop, so we kept single file and walked along the marked path. We had to divert a little to collect the arrows, but tried to tread carefully.
Obviously this isn't an ideal shooting ground and if we saw anyone we would have immediately packed up.
Anyhow it's only the second time I've shot there in about 3 years, and it's one of the few places safe to test shoot Warbows or flight bows.
I'm posting this really as a counterpoint to the endless 'health and safety' style post that I've seen on some forums, with knee jerk reaction to questions about shooting on public land or in the garden.
Anyhow the shooting was fun and I shot about 9 from the 100# Elm warbow. John warmed up with a variety of bows before trying the 130#, he was close to managing it and got off a couple of shots which went as far as the other arrows (which were all going a similar distance). He wasn't quite getting 'over the hill' with his right elbow to get those last couple of inches, but he was confident that he'd master it in a few weeks and was looking forward to enjoying it over the next year when the weather was warmer and the shooting easier.


  1. Can you explain a little about "Churchyard Yew"

  2. It's just Yew growing in a churchyard, often dismissed as unsuitable as it may be trimmed and pruned to a tight conical shape, but there are may good old Yews growing in church yards. A big advantage is that you can tell who the land owner is and approach the Vicar or Church Warden who may well let you cut a limb.
    Some people, who should know better make generalisations about English Yew. I've read that it's 'Too brittle' and also that it 'has too much moisture' Well it can hardly be both! At best they are simply mistaken, at worst they are promoting their own business interests. Either way they are doing a disservice to the amateur who is keen to have a go.

  3. I haven't been making bows too awful long as I'm sure is quite obvious, but I have long enough to know that making generalizations about a specific wood is not the best idea. I will say that "most of the time, this is like so and so", etc, but still I agree with your notion that every piece of wood should be judged individually, not trying to mis-quote you or anything if I did. Looks like some really nice tight rings. You should post a close up so we can try to count, :).

    1. That's about as close as I could get the camera to focus, I count it as about 40, but they are indistinct in the sapwood.
      V hard to count, before I sanded it flat I thought it was about 15 !
      Maybe I'll try cutting a thin slce and lapping it really flat and giving it a wipe of polish... mind I'd rather be working on the stave : )

  4. Derek
    I think you are talking about Irish yew or Taxus baccata 'fastigiata'?
    It is upright in its growth pattern and originated from 2 specimens found in the hills above Florencecourt Co Fermanagh (one of which is still in existence). It is believed to be a mutant form of the common yew
    It was widely propagated and was especially popular in churchyards as it was upright in its growth.
    It's about the only yew I can get my hands on over here , but does seem to have its qualities - if you can find a straight piece :-) , although I usually end up with a "character " bow ...

  5. Yeah, I've has some Yew that was definitely the fast growing 'landscape' stuff (assuming that's the same as the Irish Yew?). It still made a good bow, but benefitted from having the belly heat treated. Mind that also applies to some Yew I've had from ancient woodland.

  6. I should add the Yews in this churchyard were dotted about randomly and clearly very old. They were obviously not planted in neat straight linesalong the path by some Victorian gent'