Highlights of an early autumnal walk around Petworth National Trust property in West Sussex included fallow deer herds, flocks of waterfowl on the Capability Brown designed lakes, and jackdaws in skeletal standing deadwood. But first amongst them were the ancient trees within the parkland including oaks and sweet chestnut.
This sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) specimen was a particular favourite – it’s short stature concealed it behind a larger, younger specimen so it presented as a surprise when we stumbled across it. The gnarled trunk has the characteristic twisted bark which this species develops with age, and the boughs were decorated with cracks, fissures and splits.
This is the kind of tree which provides a habitat in its own right – the cavities in the timber create nesting sites for birds, roosting sites for bats and resting sites for squirrels and mice.
There is a book called ‘Meetings with Remarkable Trees‘ by Thomas Pakenham which illustrates a selection of distinguished and incredible specimens. This has become a stock phrase in my mind which loops like a tune when I come across trees such as these.