In 2011 we found Clipsham Yew Tree Avenue, near Oakham in Rutland. We were passing by, when I notice some topiary trees which seem to be in a garden. Even back then, I had a habit of shouting stop…..nothing has changed there. Once we had come to a shuddering halt, I got out the car to have a better look and then realised it was open to the public. Meanwhile my poor long suffering husband found a small car park, parked up and joined me in the most surreal landscape…..I felt like Alice in Wonderland. These trees are huge and looked as if they might all start waddling off at any moment, and then we saw that a lot were clipped to celebrate certain occasions.
The Avenue is a unique collection of 150 yew trees, most over 200 years old and was once the carriage drive to Clipsham Hall, the centre of the Clipsham Estate. The Hall is a grade 2 listed building and is still at the end of the drive, but is not open to the public. The wonderful topiary was begun in 1870 by the head forester Amos Alexander, who lived in the lodge at the old entrance to the estate. The squire at the time was so impressed that he instructed Amos to cut figures on all of the trees along the carriage drive to his home at Clipsham Hall to depict items of local interest and record family events and so the Yew Tree Avenue was born. During World War Two the avenue became neglected, overgrown and was eventually restored after the Forestry Commission took over the site in 1955. New shapes were added, the current ones maintained, and the work continues on today, organised now by the government department, Forest Enterprise. The best time to visit is at the end of September, after they have finished clipping the shapes back on the trees.