THE YEWS OF THREE CORNERED COPSE
A quiet time of year for the Friends of Three Cornered Copse, the cold weather and short days render the work days few and far between, avoiding the seasonal mud.
But the copse continues to change as the season develops. Snowdrops and Cow Parsley are venturing above ground already, and buds and catkins are hanging from the trees. The denuded woodland means that some of the evergreen trees are more visible. Of particular interest are the several yews which can be found on the edge of the wood, particularly at the higher, north eastern reaches of the copse. In the summer months they are largely obscured by the deciduous canopy, but in these winter months they are a refuge for goldfinches and firecrests, framed by the leafless beech trees.
The yew is one of our evergreen native conifers, and has a phenomenal life expectancy. The oldest trees are thought to be 1000 years old, and are found in ancient woodlands and also graveyards, where they take on a spiritual significance. They have a legend of immortality, and are thought to have been planted in the days of the plague to purify the bodies of the victims. Many graveyard yews are older than the churches themselves.
The yews in Three Cornered Copse are slightly less impressive, probably only 30 or so years old. They were probably "planted" by the few bird species that can access and process their fruit, which has a highly toxic seed coat, and have grown up in the middle of a beech woodland.
The bird life has become noticeably more active and this emphasises the role the copse has in providing a winter habitat for our domestic species. A few of us have heard the woodpeckers active, and one of our group has spotted it at work on one of the older monoliths still standing in the woods. The squirrels are very numerous, we have never noticed so many in the copse. Perhaps there was a bumper harvest of beech nuts last autumn, after the warm Spring and Summer.
We have received our two entrance boards from the manufacturers recently, and they will be installed in the coming months. Designed by one of Hove's resident artists, Jamie Eke, they introduce the copse to visitors, and show its history and its role in Hove over the years since the development of Hangleton and Goldstone Valley.
Our next work day is 5 February, all welcome.