Deep within the Shining Cliff Woods stand the splintered remains of an ancient yew tree known as Betty Kenny’s tree. Centuries before vandals set the mighty plant ablaze, the roughly 2,000-year-old tree inspired a nursery rhyme still crooned to infants today.
In the late 1700s, a woman named Betty Kenny lived in the woods with her husband Luke and their eight children. They worked as charcoal burners for the Hurt family, who owned the land at the time.
The Kenny family spent a lot of time within the shelter of the old yew tree. They lived in ramshackle turf-covered hut beneath its sprawling branches and used the tree’s trunk to support the structure. It’s said they also liked this particular tree because one of their children was buried beneath it.
According to local legend, Betty Kenny used the tree for more than just shelter. Supposedly, she rocked her babies to sleep in one of the tree’s enormous, hollowed-out branches. It’s widely believed her unconventional method of lulling her kids to sleep inspired the nursery rhyme “Rock-a-bye Baby.”
Know Before You Go
The GPS coordinates lead to the entrance to the woods. A trail then leads to the tree itself.From Ambergate Station (train from Derby to Matlock) walk to the A6. The Hurt Arms is on the junction. Facing Hurt Arms turn left on to the A6 then 1st right onto Holly Lane. With the cricket club on your right, cross over the river and turn right before you go up the hill. This track leads into Shining Cliff Woods. There are posts with white bands on that lead you to the tree.