I know I’m lucky. There are not many people who get the opportunity of to spend a whole week working in a Chestnut wood. The woodland is divided into 20 blocks, each block takes a year to process, so a continual cycle of felling and renewal is taking place. Among the chesnut are oak, as a long term timber crop (as opposed to short term coppice) and to encourage the chestnut to grown tall – reaching for the light. I was part of a team making chestnut shingles (wooden roof tiles) for a round wood house being built by the National Trust in Surrey. Justin, the woodsman makes all manner of things – laths (for repair of listed buildings with lath and plaster walls), posts and rails for fencing, fencing stakes, hurdles, nothing is wasted, the scraps are picked up as kindling.
However, my best thing was the chance to pick big, fat, juicy sweet chestnuts and roast them on the camp fire that was our constant companion for tea making and general good harmony. I have never come across them big enough to eat (I’m not so sure the trees are that happy this far north), so I was very chuffed to be eating them warm and sweet and straight out of the pan with almost no burnt fingers1