Millennium Yew Garden

The Millennium Yew Community GardenHamsterley Millennium Yew Garden adjacent to the Methodist Chapel was created in 2000 in celebration of the new Millennium. The small walled garden has an attractive display of flowers and shrubs with beauty, scents and fruits in every season throughout the year. Centrepiece in the Garden is a Yew, grown from a cutting from a 2000 year old tree in the churchyard at Hambledon in Surrey. In 2003 the Garden received a County Durham Environment Award. The Garden is  cared for by volunteers who share in working parties and  individual visits in line with a rota.

Displays and events in the Garden reflect anniversaries and include a summer Garden Party, and village carol singing around the Christmas tree.

A leaflet giving information is available and a stone plinth in the Garden tells the story of the Garden. Access to the Garden is normally available during daylight hours.

Friends of the Millennium Garden

All with an interest are regarded as Friends. There is no membership fee!
Please register your interest with the Secretary.

Programme for 2014

Working Parties Saturdays 1 March and  1 November at 9.30am
Thursday 3 July at 6.30pm

Summer Garden Party
Saturday 2 August at 3pm

The Big Carol Sing
Monday 22 December at 6.30pm

Friends Annual Meeting and Supper
Monday 9 February 2015

Secretary. Emma Gray  01388 488506

The Millennium Yew Garden Leaflet

Millennium Yew Garden

Drawing by Linda Birch

Hamsterley Millennium Yew Community Garden offers a Warm Welcome to Residents and Visitors.

It is open during daylight hours.

The Millennium Yew Garden

In common with many other towns and villages throughout Britain, Hamsterley wanted to mark the year 2000 in some lasting and appropriate way.  David Bellamy, botanist, conservationist and TV personality, is a local resident and he suggested that we might be fortunate enough to be among the recipients of a Millennium Yew.

The Conservation Foundation Yew Tree Campaign had been launched by David in 1987 to help record and protect some of Britain’s oldest trees, and its ‘Yews for the Millennium’ project was devised to offer each parish in the country a yew sapling, grown from a cutting of an existing yew at least 2,000 years old – in other words a tree already growing at the time of the birth of Christ.

The cuttings were duly taken from ancient yews (some as much as 4,000 years old) throughout England and Wales during 1996 and grown on for the purpose.  It was assumed that a few hundred yew saplings would be requested but the idea became so popular that in the end some 8,000 of these new yew trees were planted.

We know, in fact, that our own ‘Taxus baccata’, which was a mere slip of green when we received it, came from the mighty Hambledon Yew in Surrey, a tree known to be at least 2000 years old.  We now needed a prominent position for our very special tree.

At this point, we were kindly offered the use of the walled enclosure adjacent to the Methodist Church.  It was immediately plain that this was, in fact, the perfect location for a small garden, being centrally placed in the village and therefore accessible to all.  Its condition was, however, less ideal!  It had long since become redundant, overgrown and very derelict, so the first task was to find volunteers to undertake the heavy work of site clearance.

A major factor in our decision to go ahead was a donation of £2500 from the County Durham Environmental Trust (CDENT) under the Government’s Landfill Tax Credit Scheme.  It was the positive decision on this grant that gave us the confidence to proceed with the commissioning of features that might otherwise have been felt to be beyond the reach of the local community.  A local working party was duly drawn together to work on the development of the garden and to devise a suitable layout and planting plan.

The approximately regular shape of the garden and the central entrance lent themselves well to a balanced design, which it was felt would give the garden a clear structure.  Among several possible designs kindly drawn up for us by a friendly landscape architect, the simplest was the one eventually chosen, as we were aware that we were dealing with quite a small area that could easily become cluttered.

Our little yew tree would have to be the most important feature, of course, though we knew that it would take many years to grow to any remotely impressive size.  In fact it soon filled the elegant dome-shaped frame that Raymond Ayre, a local craftsman working in wrought iron, had made for it and this now acts instead as a Clematis support.  He also designed and made the gates for the entry to the garden, in both cases incorporating the year 2000 in the design.

Meanwhile, Northumbrian Water kindly donated the magnificent, and extremely heavy, stones for the paved areas.  The demanding task of laying them as level paving was carried out by Jonathan and Stephen Love, of Wolsingham, who very skilfully concealed the fact that some of the stones are as much as nine inches thick.

Steven Bainbridge was responsible for the remaining stonework in the Garden, including the plinth surrounding the slate information panel which tells the story of the garden.  Eric Bainbridge carved the Millennium plaque in the wall to the right of the entrance.

With the garden structure in place, there was now the question of what to plant.  Our starting point was that the word ‘Yew’ (as well as its Latin name ‘Taxus’) began with a letter that was part of the word ‘Hamsterley.’  Prompted by this thought and looking for a way to relate the garden to its location, we wondered whether there was any sense to be made from choosing other plants that also began with letters in the word ‘Hamsterley.’  At first the idea was simply a tentative experiment, but in fact it fell into place with remarkable ease.  Since those early days, of course, we have received a number of gifts of plants that are very welcome additions, whether or not they match our original plan.  A more important principle in our choice was – and still is – that in every season there should be beauty, whether in terms of flowers, fruits or scent.

Local people have kindly donated the benches and some additional plants, and many generously give regularly of their time and effort in clearing, planting and maintaining the Garden.

Each year, the Sunday School children take responsibility for growing, planting and caring for some of the plants in the garden such as bulbs in pots, sweet peas and nasturtiums.  And each December the Garden’s importance as a focus for the village is emphasised by the presence of a decorated and lit Christmas tree, around which we all gather to sing Christmas carols.

Millennium Yew Garden

Drawing by Linda Birch

To all who have contributed in any way, we say a very sincere thank you on behalf of all the residents of Hamsterley.


The Garden is next-door to the Methodist Church in the village of Hamsterley, which stands on a ridge between Weardale and Teesdale some seven miles west of Bishop Auckland, and three miles west of the A68.

© 2014


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