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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 September 2007, 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
Yew clippings become cancer drug
Yew leaves
Yew clippings can be turned into anti-cancer drugs
Clippings from 300-year-old yew hedges on an estate in Norfolk are being gathered so that drug manufacturers can make anti-cancer compounds.

The hedges on the National Trust's Blickling Hall Estate flank a long drive and lawns.

Clippings contain an active ingredient that can be used to manufacture drugs to treat ovarian and breast tumours.

Drug companies are also using the ingredient in research and development of other anti-cancer drugs.

The yew hedges at Blickling Hall are thought to be at least 300 years old and are 17ft (5.5m) in height and 14ft (4.4m) wide in some places.

Cutting normally takes two gardeners with a hydraulic cherry picker lift two weeks to complete.

Stephen Hagon, assistant gardener at Blickling Hall, said the cutting of the hedges always generates a lot of interest from visitors.

"We put up signs for visitors to explain what we are doing when we are carrying out major work in the gardens," he said.

"In this instance we also inform our visitors what happens to the clippings after they have been cut."

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