Post Reply
User avatar
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
Posts: 48142
Joined: 23 Jan 2012, 12:01
Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley » 19 May 2017, 06:29


One of the problems about writing these articles is coming up with topics that might interest you. Quite often they are triggered by the questions people ask me. I often refer them to the website and tell them to search Stanley's View because after all these years I have almost always written about them. Sometimes I am even tempted to simply re-submit an old topic but that would be cheating! One such question came up this week, about holly trees.
As you know, I am an advocate of not looking at things but observing them and questioning what you see. Over the years this led me to puzzle about why you can always identify old hedgerows and by inference the age of a route by how many holly trees line the road. After all, on the surface, Holly is such a useless tree, it produces no large timber and yet it is so prevalent. I did some digging and found that I was completely wrong, holly was very useful for a variety of reasons.
Let's get the obvious one out of the way first. In early Christianity the holly was likened to the Crown of Thorns because of its spiky nature and the red berries which are easily associated with drops of blood. Add to this the Pagan reverence for green boughs and we begin to see the roots of Holly as a Christmas decoration. Evergreen boughs are still used in parts of Northern Europe for decorating the exterior of the church to commemorate Himmelfart, the German term for Ascension Day. There is also an ancient belief that Holly attracts lightning and therefore protects any humans or animals nearby. Funnily enough, experiments have shown that there is an element of truth in this because of a mechanism in physics called 'The Attraction of Points'.That's why you often find Holly trees near houses and churches. But then I stumbled across the biggie!
Have you ever been in a wooded deer park and noted that for some reason the lower branches of trees have been trimmed on the bottom side? This is not the forester's work, it is because the deer browse the low hanging boughs and the flatness is because that is the limit of their reach. This is why many old established farms have holly tree near them and why 'Holly' is so common in farm and place names, think of Hollins up Esp Lane or Hollinwood. It was a valuable winter feed and when the lower branches were eaten off, branches would be lopped so the animals had access to them.
One good article I found was by Martin Spray. He starts his paper with a lovely quotation: ‘Lyarde es ane olde horse, and may noght wele drawe, He salle be put into the parke holyne for to gnawe. [1440. Mummer’s song in the Sheffield area] This broken down old horse wasn’t worth giving valuable winter feed but was given a chance to survive by being retired to ‘the parke holyne’, the holly wood. I like that!


Holly place names are the left hand bar, surnames the right.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

Post Reply

Return to “Stanley's View”