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Another fine tree

hamishchestnutOur villages here in the Wychwoods are blessed with some lovely trees and I want to single out one in particular. It is the magnificent example of the much-loved Conker tree. You have probably already guessed that I am referring to the one standing tall and proud on Ascott’s village green. This particular tree was planted in 1973. It has four newly refurbished seats around its base, a centenary memorial to the Ascott Martyrs, the story of whom was recounted in a recent article in this magazine.

The Horse Chestnut (Aesculus Hippocantanum) originates from the Eastern Mediterranean area, principally from Turkey, and was introduced to this country in the 1600s. It is a very common tree throughout our land and also grows in other temperate parts of the world – North America in particular where it must not be confused with the Buckeye Chestnut. Nor indeed confused anywhere with the Sweet Chestnut, the tree with the delicious nuts we roast to eat after the autumn harvest.

The nuts from our Horse Chestnuts can be eaten, although I have never tried them myself. Apparently they can be roasted and ground to a powder to make a coffee-like beverage and even a mushy sort of flour. There are also claims that these nuts have medicinal properties but I do not know what these purport to be. Also, I am reliably told, if you place some nuts in your wardrobes they will deter moths and spiders. Just as importantly, the nuts are treasured for the game of conkers where two players, each with a nut or conker on the end of a string, take turns to try and break each other’s conker by bashing it with their own; first to smash his opponent’s conker wins!

This tree is beautifully shaped, with several trunks sprouting out from the main stem some 12 feet or so above the ground. This seems to give the tree lovely proportions from whichever direction it is viewed. And of course in the spring the tree has a proliferation of beautiful, white candle-like flowers; a marvelous display to welcome in the summer months.

Hamish Harvey

August – September 2018