Tag Archives: chestnuts

Sitting in the Spinney

Riding due East into Aylesham my expectations were somewhat confounded. I had expected the gale to be on my back, but it was on my left shoulder, pushing me towards the middle of the road. There was noticeable relief when there was a hedge on the North side of the road, so it was encouraging to see new hawthorn slips bursting green from their rabbit-proof planting tubes. Relief for cyclists and protection for the land. The soil up here is quite thin over the chalk.

More relief when I branched off on the Southern road into the village. The Spinney shields most of this stretch, a woodland with beech, hazel and sweet chestnut. I stopped to sit on a branch and eat lunch. The bluebells are in fine leaf, as are wild arum and anemones, but what of wild garlic? I hadn’t long to search, I had an appointment in the village and I wasted time watching a brimstone butterfly, happy enough to be out of the wind, under the trees, enjoying the sunshine beaming through the bare branches. I found just one leaf, which I nobly left to grow. And I was happy too.

Let’s change that ‘I wasted time’ to ‘I spent time’, while I was watching the butterfly. Time well-spent!

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The Forager’s Christmas Presents

The forager shared the fruits of his (and Mrs Turnstone’s) labours over the Festive Time:

walkapples

Apples from ‘Your Company was Much Appreciated’, newly washed.

  • The Chestnuts appeared as a stuffing which pleased our almost vegetarian guest; see post “Cornish and Kentish foraging”. And Thanks to Patrick and Rose Marie.
  • the sloes harvested in Cornwall anointed the goose, helping to flavour the bird; see post “Of Flowers, Foragers, and Fiona”. And thanks to Fiona in the Van.
  • scrumped apples were an important ingredient in the mince pies; see “Your Company Was Much Appreciated” – and Thanks to Mrs T for her company on this and many another walk.
  • loganberry and orange jam was enjoyed by those in the know! See “Foraging again!” And thanks to my long arms that let me reach the topmost fruit!

Everything has its moment

 

Everything has its moment

‘Everything has its moment’, said Mrs T.
We had just noticed the long orange stems of the willow by the duck pond, glowing through the morning mist. There are also still plenty of golden leaves on the trees, even some green on the birch, but it’s the gold of autumn that draws the eye to a seedling chestnut. Neither the god-daughters nor the squirrels spotted that nut last autumn – or maybe one of the squirrels buried it and forgot about it.
Everything has its moment. May we be ready for ours!
The Donkey
G. K. Chesterton
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Cornish and Kentish foraging

29/10

I was beginning to fear that this year the chestnuts for the Christmas goose would have to be bought, as the opportunity to gather them in Kent never quite presented itself. I have not cycled home through the woods this autumn as work has taken me elsewhere. This meant that I missed my favourite crab tree as well.

Last year our god-daughters helped with the harvest on the side of Abbot’s Hill, and they roasted a few by our fire before taking their share home to London. But this year our chestnuts will be Cornish ones. As Patrick, an old school friend, lives in the Duchy with his wife Rosemarie, we took ourselves over to see them, and there along their footpath into town we soon gathered sufficient stuffing to satisfy the discerning Turnstone crew.

There’s just the small matter of peeling them to look forward to. Not good for the fingernails, but it’s a congenial task for a dark autumn evening with the music playing.

The real reason for visiting Truro, of course, was their company. We had not seen them since the time our daughters brought us together again: theirs graduated as a teacher, after teaching ours during her final practice at college; those dozen years – and a great many more – to catch up on; that gave us another blessed day.

Here is last year’s story:

Two lively god-daughters gave us a good excuse for a muddy Autumn walk up Abbott’s Hill. Like moths to a flame, welly boots were drawn to the squidgy puddles, but the girls’ mother had packed a change of clothes; she knows her children. Amy tumbled backwards with all the grace of a ballet-dancing eight-year-old. And did it again.

We had no time to float sticks down the stream; we were out hunting, not for rabbits or squirrels, but for another wild food – chestnuts.

On the way up to the spinney, Juliet was able to identify some of the trees, like the silver birch and oak. We saw the magpies and squirrels busily gathering acorns, but would they have left us any chestnuts? A green woodpecker was so intent on the acorn feast that it merely hopped a few yards from the path as we walked by. A magpie scolded us from the topmost branches; the squirrels just scrambled round the far side of the tree.

And chestnuts there were in plenty. Great fun was had in gathering them, rolling the spiky husks under the soles of our boots till the shiny fruit lay open to view in its soft bed. There was much critical appraisal of our harvest, and before the girls were bored, a respectable bagful was gathered.

Not living in London where such luxuries are regulated, we were able to light the fire and invite Juliet and Amy to take turns cooking the nuts on the roasting shovel brought back from a holiday in Wales. There were still plenty for them to take back home, while I cooked and froze the rest: our Christmas stuffing was guaranteed local produce!