Friday, 19 September 2008

Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree

The other day I wrote a post about having a dream about something I should write for this blog, but by the  time I woke up I couldn't remember what it was that I was supposed to be writing about.  This afternoon I was talking to a friend on the phone and a chance remark during the conversation reminded me what the post was going to be about.

Conkers.  Yes, that's right, conkers.  I had dreamt about writing a post about conkers, strange as it may seem.

It all began a few weeks ago as I was sitting on the bus on my way to my regular Friday psychotherapy session.  London, for all its sprawling size and apparent mass of buildings, is actually a very green city.  I mean that in the nature sense, not the environmental one.  The capital has lots of parks, some large some small, all over the place.  These parks are in the central, touristy part of London and they are in the suburbs too.  In addition, many streets in London are tree-lined, and it just so happens that in my part of London there are lots of horse chestnut trees.  So, on this journey a few weeks ago I happened to notice as I was looking out of the window that there were an awful lot of conkers on the trees.  It was one of those things that you just sort of notice at the time and then file away for future reference.

Horse chestnut trees are amongst the most beautiful that grow in this country.  From the sticky buds that start to appear as winter starts to fade into spring they become clothed with leaves formed of usually five leaflets, that start off drooping then become firm and fan-like as they grow larger as the days grow longer and warmer.  Then there are the magnificent pink or white flowers that look like candelabra fixed all over the tree.  The flowers die back as summer arrives and the horse chestnut displays itself as a magnificent spreading sunshade during the days of high summer, and if we have been lucky and the flowers have been fertilized the conkers begin to grow.

This year we have not had the best of weather; I think we can all say that it seems to have been one of the coldest and wettest summers that we can remember.  But the weather this year seems to have been perfect for the horse chestnut trees.  Spring was mild, we even had some really lovely weather at the perfect time for the blossoms, and it seems that the bees and other insects were busy fertilizing the flowers.  The excess of rain seems to have suited the horse chestnut trees with the result that there was sufficient to ensure that there was minimal loss of fruit from the trees during the summer.  It is normal during July and August to see lots of immature conkers on the ground around the trees which have been shed because the trees cannot take up sufficient water for all of them to grow to maturity.  This year there were few.

During the last couple of weeks, as I have been taking my daily walks, I have noticed that the conkers are starting to fall from the trees, and this year there seem to be far more than I can ever remember having seen before, and not only are they numerous, they are also large.

So, while it may not have been a very good weather for humans this summer, it seems that the weather has been perfect for the horse chestnut trees, and consequently for a good harvest of conkers.  

1 comment:

cellar_door said...

I love conkers.

Strangely, I have some really good ideas for posts when I'm dropping off to sleep...or at least I think they are good, because I can never remember in the morning...