ycling through south London, the excitement builds as exploration of the back lanes, fields and ancient trees in Tandridge grows ever closer. The dark sky of the morning is slowly breaking up and giving way to dappled light, whilst the landscape greens and grey walls are replaced with hedgerows.
The hunt is on for the huge and ancient Tandridge yew in St Peter's Church. Struck by lightning and pronounced dead in the mid 19th century, the yew took on a new lease of life and recovered, towering above other trees and the medieval church. It is one of the oldest trees in Surrey. Thought to be over a thousand years old, it was immortalised on Royal Mail stamps as part of millennium celebrations. The yew was almost certainly alive during the Battle of Hastings some 50 miles to the south, but survived the fate of many other yews which were felled for use as longbows.
And so the ancient yew has survived in St Peter's beautiful churchyard. Spring smells are abound in the air, and the tree overlooks the beautiful, rolling countryside. Cycling down the hedgerow-lined lanes, whose gaps provide momentary glances of the world beyond, the stomach grumbles, and the picnic blanket is laid out. Hot tea is poured as the quintessentially British landscape is soaked up and the grass rustles in the breeze.
All too soon the clouds return and its time to move on, past St Peter's for a last fleeting look and back north to the wider, busier landscape, where rather younger glass and concrete structures tower instead.
You can download a leaflet of the Yew Tree Way by Tandridge District Council and Surrey County Council.
Pictures by Diana Patient