Although it is quite late in the season to be foraging for sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa), there were still a good number of edible nuts to be found during the first week of November. Ecclesall Woods is my favourite location for harvesting these delicious nuts. There are many large sweet chestnut trees in the woods, many of which were planted in the 1850s.
Sweet chestnuts are actually a Southern European species that were introduced into the woods as a fast growing alternative to native oak, with which it shares a high tannin content. This makes it a durable timber suitable for uses where a degree of water-resistance is required.
Luckily for us, many of these trees are now large specimens that produce an abundance of delicious nuts. Sadly some sweet chestnuts in Ecclesall Woods have been affected by Phytophthora aka ink disease on account of the dark spot-like stains that are seen on some trees, notably on beech. It is harder to see the early stages on the rough-barked chestnuts.
Should you go looking for chestnuts, remember to leave some for the wildlife. When gathering these I saw not one but two wood mice lurking in nearby brambles – it is not just the squirrels who like a nibble. Only take the big and firm nuts. If they are soft they are past their best; too small and they are a pain to shell.
Sheffield Tree Week starts today and my contribution to the festival is this short film that I recorded over the weekend while walking in the wonderful Ecclesall Woods, the city’s largest woodland.
At this point in the summer the tree canopy is at its most dense and many woodland wildflowers have long since flowered. However there are a few midsummer highlights including: bramble (Rubus fruiticosus), honeysuckle (Lonicerapericlymenum) and enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana), all of which are in bloom. Plus ripe and juicy raspberries (Rubus idaeus) where the light levels are higher.
Also included within this video are tips for identifying: hornbeam (Carpinus betulus); larch (Larix decidua); Scot’s pine (Pinus sylvestris) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).
Visit the Sheffield Tree Week website for more information.
Last Wednesday met up with Green City Heritage to make a short film for this year’s Urban Tree Festival. In it we explore the urban woodland within Sheffield General Cemetery, observing appropriate physical distancing guidelines by using a selfie-stick! We are so fortunate to have this fine mature woodland, with many an interesting species, within walking distance of the city centre.
Despite the urban setting the cemetery is a biodiversity hotspot and is popular with both wildlife and people alike. This is why I have chosen to add this location to my list of places for leading guided walks, which I hope to resume later this year.