I found this slice of a yew tree branch on the pavement as I was walking past Cotterstock Hall this morning. It’s about the same weight as a desk diary and smells a little like coal tar soap. I counted the annual growth rings, and this particular branch started to grow from the main trunk before I was born.
Yew was historically used to make longbows, but was also made into musical instruments. I’ve worked with the wood while building a lute. It’s tough and springy, but planes and scrapes to a beautiful smooth finish. When it’s first worked the surface can take on a wonderful range of colours, from the cream of the sapwood through light pinks to dark purples.
While I was holding it crows were circling overhead, and I heard a raven kronk towards Perio Farm. Their quills were used in making instruments too, as plectra for harpsichords. It’s easy to forget how long the world was turning before synthetic materials arrived, how much people managed to do just with natural materials and the knowledge and skill to use them properly.