September 14th – A real sign of autumn, my first conker finds of the season, and this year it looks like there’s a large, voluminous crop waiting to fall to earth.
This tree, spotted in the backlanes of Stonnall was laden, and the fruit fresh from the husk as beautiful and shiny as ever one could wish, despite the tree being hard-hit by leaf miner.
Like most men, there is an inbuilt genetic urge to collect fallen conkers and I still can’t pass them in the road without popping a few in my pocket.
September 26th – On my way home in the road in the backstreets of Walsall, I spotted these large acorns in unusually hairy cups. Not having seen the like before, I assumed there were some kind f insect gall.
Looking it up when I got home, these are actually the acorns f a turkey oak, and quite normal for the species. I’ve never seen them before, and they’re quite alien after the familiar gnarled, knobbly normal acorn cup one usually sees.
An interesting oddity.
September 18th – Ah, the season of the conker.
Every year, I point out the same truism: that few men can pass a conker lying on the ground and not pop it into their pocket. It’s a primal instinct from childhood, when they were seemingly so rare, and highly prized.
Despite the leaf-miners and cankers, the horse chestnuts have had a fruitful year and the beautifully shiny, leathery nuts lie in their split spiky husks on the ground beneath many a rural tree. This one, spotted near Burntwood, ended up in my pocket too.
It’s be rude not to.
July 23rd – Pleased to see again that the walnut tree, appropriately situated in the village of Wall, has a great crop again this year. It’s the only such tree I know of locally, and the only one I’ve ever seen that reliably fruits.
A few more weeks and I might grab a couple of handfuls of the still green nuts to try pickled walnuts. Always fancied giving them a go.
September 14th – Also prolific at the moment are the squirrels, who are eating for winter. Near the Watermead estate on the towpath by the hazel hedge, the way is littered with expertly nibbled shells, harvested for their fatty, milky goodness by the grey, furry nut-bandits.
There’s a real feeling at the moment of nature preparing to shut down for winter.
September 23rd – Labouring up Shire Oak Hill at Sandhills, a familiar crunch crackles under my tyres. The beech mast is thick this year, and it’s been a good year for beech nuts.
The husks are hard, prickly and dry as old bones; the little brown nuts shiny and hard. Some years, the nuts are fatter and more oily than others, and this is part of the growing cycle of the tree, not a factor of the weather. Edible but harsh, they were used as a substitute for coffee in wartime and gave their name to a chewing gum.
I collect a few, split them open with a pocket blade, and suck out the kernel, and chew them determinedly for the remainder of my journey.
A palatable taste, not unlike a slightly sharp hazelnut. But it’s hard work to get a decent mouthful!