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Kingley Vale, near Chichester on the South Downs has one of Europe's most impressive yew forests. The forest contains yews as much as 2,000 years old, which are some of the oldest living organisms in Great Britain. Their survival is remarkable because in the run-up to D-Day, Canadian and British Spitfires used the trees as target practice - bullet holes are still visible some of the trees today. Most ancient yew trees across Europe were felled after the 14th century, being the preferred material for the staves of English longbows. In 1472, with the increasing popularity of the longbow, the English government enacted a "yew tax" of four "bowestaffs" for every cask of wine unloaded at an English harbour. This sparked a rush for ancient yew trees across Europe, decimating the forests. Kingley Vale is one of the few major stands remaining; most yews elsewhere are solitary trees or small stands.<br />
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