On a cold November’s day I decided it would be a good time to collect Sweet Chestnuts. Ideally, I’d have waited for a windy occurrence to shake some fresh nuts of the branches but this autumn has been so clement and that I was worried that the Chestnut season could pass before such a condition would present itself. I would just have to compete with the larvae and squirrels for the ground finds.
My favourite spot is in Cobham Park where the Sweet Chestnuts are big and plentiful. I grabbed the bike and cycled over the M2 bridge and decided to try to cycle through Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve. As it has been unseasonably dry, the tracks were unmuddied and apart from a few steep sections where I ran out of gears and had to walk up it was an enjoyable ride on farm tracks and around bare fields. On entering Cobham Park the path took me through still foliaged woods and past the empty Darnley Mausoleum to where the Sweet Chestnut trees are situated. This section of the park has roaming cattle so it wasn’t long before I managed to step in a cowpat. Not so nice when one is wearing cleats but it is an occupational hazard and one that is worth it.
Due to the unseasonal warmth, there were still a lot of mushrooms. There were a lot of Inkcaps but also a huge amount of Honey Fungus. This edible yet parasitic fungus extends its reach underground via black tendrils known as bootlaces. Once it makes contact with a tree, it steals nutrients until the tree eventually dies.
My friend suggested a Chestnut and mushroom pie so that’s what I’m going do. The chestnuts have been dunked in water to test for residents and like witches, the floating nuts are guilty so they’re disposed of. At the moment of writing, they are currently drying out and I’m waiting to see if any more invertebrates decide to pop out.
GPS route can be found here:
On a dry day, this ride can be done on a touring bike. I wouldn’t do it if it had just been raining as the paths through Cobham Park would be too muddy. Then it’d be perfect mountain bike territory.