True Service Tree: Distribution

True Service Tree MapThe distribution of the small populations of recently identified trees would seem to indicate that the True Service Tree in Britain is at the limit of its range. All these trees grow, in often stunted forms, in rough ground on relatively steep, eroding slopes where it seems they can compete most successfully.

The map shows the currently known locations of the trees:

  1. the original: now occupied by a descendant;
  2. the known descendants;
  3. probable descendants; and
  4. recently discovered and scientifically identified as native.


Trees are the longest-lived and, apart from certain subterranean fungal growths, the largest organisms on Earth. Human relationships with them are many and varied and trees in turn connect, directly or indirectly, with all aspects of Nature. John Ruskin, the 19th century polymath, saw clearly the pluriverse, interconnectedness of the human, current and premodern, the natural and the spiritual worlds. Ewan is working, with the backing of Ruskin’s Guild, to identify the links between all aspects of the environment from the geological to the political in an rural benefice of seven parishes in Suffolk. Maps of the main environmental elements are shown below.

New book on Weardale from the Durham Wildlife Trust

The Durham Wildlife Trust is preparing to publish, as a companion to its distinguished volume on Teesdale, a book on Weardale. Ewan was asked to produce some field sketches which encapsulate the nature and character of Weardale.


The True Service Tree

On the strength of one tree, discovered in 1678, growing in a remote part of the Forest of Wyre, the True Service was admitted somewhat controversially on to the British list. It was celebrated as the ‘Whitty Pear’, and progeny were grown to be distributed locally and to the Oxford Botanic Garden. The original was burnt down in 1862 but a direct descendant was planted nearby in 1913. The final confirmation that the True Service is a native British tree, the rarest British tree, came between 1883 and 1991 with the discovery of a small number of indisputably wild populations on barely accessible cliffs in South Glamorgan. Later, a few individual trees were found in similar environments on the Horseshoe Bend of the Bristol Avon, where they provide the basis for the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and on the estuary banks of the Wye and Camel Rivers.

When writing the book on the Museum Gardens, York, Ewan and Peter became aware of the rarity of the True Service Tree which grows there. This led to a successful campaign to preserve the Tree when the flood banks in the Gardens are raised by the Environment Agency in 2021. It also led to continuing research on the species and below are some of Ewan’s drawings.

Whitty Pear – D20

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Established as a utopian experiment by William Mills in 1825, Yellow Springs village followed directly from the foundation of New Harmony, Indiana, by Robert Owen, the British philanthropist from New Lanark. Yellow Springs is now a large arts community with a population of over 3,700, reinforced by the students of Antioch College, one of the earliest progressive schools.

Every year, the Yellow Springs Arts Council hosts, among a range of events, a high profile public exhibition. Ewan has been privileged to have a picture exhibited at four of these exhibitions. The most recent, in the Spring of 2020 was sadly foreshortened by Covid-19. It was entitled Pareidolia and Ewan’s picture is of an appropriate tree at St Edmund Hall.

St Edmund Hall Magnolia  Pareidolia – D1

For 2021, the subject for the exhibition is ‘Isolation’ and Ewan’s contribution is ‘Sycamore Gap’.

Sycamore Gap – D18

New book: “The most fortunate situation”: The Story of York’s Museum Gardens

“The most fortunate situation”: The Story of York’s Museum Gardens 
by Peter Hogarth and Ewan Anderson (2018)

The history of York is the history of England and the history of the Museum Gardens is the history of York. From a city dumping ground to a monastic garden to, in 1928, a botanic garden, the Museum Gardens have expanded and developed. The purpose has evolved from exclusively scientific to include horticulture and leisure. There is a rich and varied plant collection underpinned by an Arboretum with a range of rare trees. The book includes 12 of Ewan’s tree drawings.

A page from the book featuring some of Ewan’s tree drawings

In Memorium

For residential development, this magnificent Southern Magnolia at Sidmouth Aboretum is to be felled.

At St Edmund Hall, this Southern Magnolia, which had dominated the front quadrangle for the post-war period, had to be removed as it was damaging the ancient stonework.
The wood was used to produce a set of beautiful carvings.

At the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, memorial trees for people and animals, particularly donkeys, have been planted.

The Sanctuary is a wonderful place to visit and, if possible, support. Donkeys epitomise friendliness, gentleness, hard work and humility. Time spent with them is enriching and therapeutic (

Wentworth Elm

Long considered extinct in Britain, two Wentworth Elms were discovered in the grounds of Holyrood Palace, during a survey by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, in 2016. They are thought to have been planted in about 1909.

Ancient Yew Trees of Borrowdale

On the slopes at the upper end of Borrowdale in the Lake District are three Yew Trees. They were visited by Wordsworth before one was destroyed in a storm in 1803. He penned the poem ‘Yew-Trees’ in which he described the ‘fraternal four’. The trees are about 1,500 years old. In 2002, to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Queen, the Borrowdale Yew was named one of the fifty great British trees.