The Beauly Elm
The Beauly Elm, believed to be Europe's oldest wych elm tree, has recently died after almost 800 years guarding the entrance to Beauly Priory in Scotland.
Beauly Priory, near Inverness, was founded in about 1230 for monks of the Valliscaulian order - a French order that adhered to strict ideals of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The local landowner, Sir John Bisset, invited the monks to settle next to a series of bends in the River Beauly. Religious life continued there for over 300 years, until the Reformation brought their quiet, cloistered lives to an abrupt end.
Only the abbey church still stands today, housing some fine funerary monuments. References to the elm in records go back to the early days of the priory. It seems it is the last survivor of an avenue of elms that once stretched from the priory to the town square.
Over time, the wych elm became a famous emblem of the area. Unfortunately in recent years it suffered from Dutch Elm Disease and buds seen in 2021 are believed to have been its last. A celebration of the tree was held in the local village in September 2022.
The winter of 2022/23 was finally too much for the tree and it finally collapsed in January 2023.
Wych elm is the only elm regarded as being truly native to the UK, according to the Woodland Trust. It usually grows in hilly or stoney woodlands, or near streams and ditches and is hardier than the English elm. Its name refers to how easily the wood can be bent.
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