Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Autumn

The first day of Autumn - marked by a rather nice Google doodle - though it's still more of an Indian Summer over much of the country, and long may it last. It looks as if it's a bit of a Mast Year too - that's two in a row. Certainly the Horse Chestnuts are fruiting in far greater abundance than I've seen in several years - fine, big, fully-formed conkers, raining down from the trees these past few days (I've nearly been hit several times, and would count it an honour if I were).
 This is very gratifying, as just a few short years ago it looked as if the Horse Chestnut might be on its way out, killed off by a lethal combination of Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner and a fungal pathogen. I remember seeing entire avenues apparently dead or dying. But it seems this fine tree is  fighting back and might even be regaining the upper hand. Having adapted to the threat by shortening its season, it now seems to be getting back to a more normal cycle. It was at just this time of year, more than half a century ago, that I would be out gathering conkers after school in the park. There is still nothing quite so fresh, so glossy, so richly brown, so entirely and essentially nutty as a newly fallen conker nestling in its green shell.
 (That's a Samuel Palmer above, by the way.)

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