There are several very large Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) in Colquite wood and a number of younger seedlings on both sides of the river. It is believed that Sweet Chestnut was first introduced to Britain from southern Europe by the Romans. There are written references from the twelfth century so it has certainly been here a long time, and in southern Britain behaves very much like a native species. It produces fine, durable timber similar to oak but generally grows 10 – 20 % faster. The Chestnuts at Stara probably originate from Duchy planting in the late nineteenth century when it was much favoured over slower growing oak.

Leaves and developing chestnuts Seed production is sporadic and needs a warm summer to produce edible nuts, and this year looks promising. (Anne’s note – the squirrels usually get the bulk of them!!)

Currently Sweet Chestnut seems to be prone to a number of plant pathogens which have found their way into the UK in recent years. Locally, Chestnut Blight, which is affecting the bark on many trees, and Phytophthora ramorum, which has already been a problem on larch trees in Stara. Both these diseases can kill trees within a few years. The Chestnut tree which has recently fallen into the river appeared healthy and may simply have grown too quickly in the hot spring weather, becoming top heavy. It was certainly growing on very thin soil.

Meanwhile I look at the remaining chestnuts at least once a year for symptoms of dieback or bark necrosis, but please let me know if you notice anything that may suggest disease so we can deal with it as soon as possible. There are some magnificent large Chestnuts which we would hate to lose.