Wednesday, 28 December 2011

New Glastonbury Thorn for Queen's Diamond Jubilee

One year on the Glastonbury Thorn fails to recover

The Glastonbury Thorn September 2011
On 9th December last year it was widely reported that the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury had been vandalised, mindlessly hacked down during the night, the most baffling event of the year.

The tree on Wearyall Hill was claimed to be a descendant of The Holy Thorn associated with the Legend of Joseph of Arimathea, who on arriving in Britain after the crucifixion landed at the Isle of Avalon and climbed Wearyall Hill and thrust his wooden staff into the ground where it took root and grew into the Glastonbury Thorn, nearly 2,000 years ago.

For those who find this legend a little hard to swallow there is the alternative suggestion that the Thorn was brought back from the Crusades and propagated by the monks of Glastonbury.

Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads cut down the tree during the English Civil War, but local people managed to salvage the roots of the original tree, hiding it in secret locations around Glastonbury. Its descendant was then replanted on Weary Hill in 1951 which survived nearly sixty years until that December night last year. Fortunately other cuttings were also grown and planted around the town, including the Abbey.

We visited Glastonbury in early September and before  returning home walked up Wearyall Hill in the pouring rain to see if the Glastonbury Thorn was recovering from its plight.  Although in a sorry state after its ordeal there were signs of fresh growth sprouting. Even so it should have made a better recovering than this some nine months after the attack, but there was still hope while it was putting out fresh growth, although alone on that hill it did seem rather vulnerable.

Shoots of Recovery September 2011
I decided not to publish any photographs at the time and draw the attention of souvenir hunters or further attacks. You can imagine my disappointment barely a week later when the Daily Mail published the story saying the local council had given up hope of recovery after some of the new growth has now been removed by suspected trophy hunters who will use them to try and grow their own Holy Thorn.

Local councillor John Coles said it will be replaced with a new one grafted from the original branches which were hacked off.

'Mr Coles said, “People don't realise the damage they are doing. I am forever removing these ribbons because they block sunlight to the trunk.”

He added, “we've had people pulling things off - the new growth and bark on the trunk. We think it would have survived if it was just left alone. There is still life in the trunk but we doubt that it will ever recover. It is very sad but we think the best thing is to replace it.”

The new tree has been grafted by experts at Kew Gardens and is likely to be planted nearby to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Holy Thorn of Glastonbury Vandalised - Arthurian Review of 2010, Clas Merdin,  28 Dec 2010
Killed off after 2,000 years - Mail Online 19 September 2011

Pictures: the Author

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1 comment:


    New Glastonbury Thorn Vandalised
    In a quiet, low key ceremony on Wearyall Hill on 1st April 2012 a replacement Holy Thorn was planted close to the site of the vandalised tree by the landowners working with the Glastonbury Conservation Society and blessed by the Vicar of Glastonbury, the Reverend David MacGeoch.

    Although not a cutting from the 1952 – 2010 tree, the new Thorn was of the lineage of the original, whose parent tree came from Glastonbury Abbey via Oxford Botanic Garden and culivated at a Devon nursery.

    On 16th April the Somerset town awoke to find the freshly planted Holy Thorn had been severely damaged with the stem snapped off at about 18 inches above the ground. It seems very doubtful the young tree will survive its ordeal.

    So what now for the Glastonbury Thorn?
    Is it worth planting another tree just for it to get vandalised again? Yet failure to plant another tree would mean the vandals have won and Wearyall Hill remains without a Holy Thorn.

    Following the attack in December 2010 Glastonbury Abbey was asked to safeguard the branches. Cuttings were taken from these severed branches by The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew who have successfully grafted several scions onto Hawthorn rootstock. Several of these have grown into healthy saplings but still very delicate and too young for planting out yet, but should be ready for 2013.