Hedge-cuttings help fight against cancer

RICHARD BATSON The two historic hedges which flank the picture postcard frontage of stately Blickling Hall are more than just an inspirational sight for visitors. Their annual “haircut” is doing its bit to help cancer sufferers.

RICHARD BATSON

The two historic hedges which flank the picture postcard frontage of stately Blickling Hall are more than just an inspirational sight for visitors. Their annual “haircut” is doing its bit to help cancer sufferers.

Clipping the huge yew hedges, which are 17ft tall and 14ft wide in some places, is under way.

It is a task which takes two National Trust gardeners and a hydraulic platform a fortnight to complete.

But the trimmings are not put on to the bonfire or compost heap. They are used to make cancer-fighting chemotherapy drugs.

Harvesting the 300-year-old hedges for their health-giving properties has been going on for more than 20 years.

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The clippings are collected by Friendship Estates, who pass them to the drug industry, which isolates the taxol used to make drugs for battling breast and ovarian cancer.

While most parts of yew trees are poisonous the taxol, from the inner bark, was discovered to be effective in halting cancer growth in some patients. It is injected into the tumour and captures the problems cells in a cage of miniature tubes. It takes the product of six trees to help one patient, but many stately homes, including Hampton Court, contribute to the clippings bank.

Assistant gardener at Blickling Stephen Hagon said cutting of the hedges always generated a lot of interest from visitors, adding: “One year we had a lady who had visited the property, return with a shoe box of yew cuttings from her own garden. She wanted to do her bit.”

Blickling Hall gardens are open Wednesday to Sunday (10.15am to 5.15pm) until October 28, then Thursday to Sunday (11-4) for the rest of the year.

t In the EDP2 section of Monday's EDP, we begin a series of features looking at breast cancer, what you can do to help and how the county is helping to lead the way in support and treatment of women with the disease.

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