Enchanting the hawthorn

We are very lucky to have a mature native hawthorn tree in a lovely central position in the garden. When we arrived in June, the trunk was consumed in a wall of greenery (see below) and it was evident to us that masonry had been dumped around the base. When we started to pull back the many, many layers of ivy and brambles we found breeze blocks, lumps of cement, chunks of metal and lots of stones. But there was some method in the madness: as we cut away the encasing foliage we learned that the tree roots began high above ground level and being supported by the random detritus.

Base area of tree encased in ivy and brambles earlier in the summer

Removing the overgrowth and severing the ivy creepers all around the tree, we painstakingly dug out the stones and other rubbish and smoothed the supporting earth at the front of tree into a terrace encased in a stone wall to create a planting area (next we will sow daffodil and crocus bulbs around the tree). In the process we created a new home for our cherished buddha head.

We cleared all the way around and pruned away the lower branches.

Among the various things we found in the earth around the tree were bits of old tiles and china, pieces of decorative glass, parts from a cast iron stove and the below bottle (about four inches tall).

We couldn’t help but wonder if these were possible offerings to the tree in line with some west of Ireland superstition/tradition.

Hawthorn trees near holy wells often have ‘offerings’ in the form of bits of cloth tied to them (when the rag disintegrates so will the worry or problem it represents). In pagan tradition, the hawthorn is a gathering place of faeries, and to cut one down is still considered bad luck, which is why one might see a solitary hawthorn in the middle of a field or better yet, in a fairy fort (old ring fort earth works litter this part of the country). We actually did cut a small hawthorn down elsewhere already, as it was crowding birch. Nothing terrible has befallen any of us as a consequence. Yet.

Once the masses of ivy die back, the tree will hopefully have a chance to breath a little easier, and now we can enjoy the light and space around the tree, as well as the lovely tree itself, which is currently providing the blackbirds with a glut of berries. Can’t wait to see it in full bloom in the spring.

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