Country diary: Tis the season for red berries

Country diary: Tis the season for red berries

Knighton, Powys: The vibrant hollies of the Welsh Marches are some of the oldest specimens of Ilex aquifolium in Europe

Brighter than the bygone reds in fabric shops on the high street, bright as bonfires, these are bloody, socialist reds hiding behind the church. Danger and luck, warning and blessing, feast and poison, say these paradox reds; there’s truth in the harmony of opposites.

On the Welsh side of the River Teme, at the back of St Edmund’s church in Knighton, these are the red berries of celyn. A stone’s throw across the river into England, this is a holly tree. The hollies of the Welsh Marches are some of the oldest specimens of Ilex aquifolium in Europe, perhaps thanks to superstitions that it’s bad luck to cut them down, that they ward away storms and evil spirits, and that they have a symbolic place indoors as decorations.

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