Hazelnuts

hazelnuts

hazelnuts

hazel catkins

hazel catkins

I have hazelnuts, Corylus avellana, growing in my garden. I rarely see them, or at least see them to eat, as the squirrels get there first. They will happily and quite nonchalantly stroll past me, steal a nut, then scurry away quickly with their prize in grasped between their paws.

Last year was different. It was a warm summer, the nuts ripened early, and I got there first. The nuts were ready mid-August, not September. But then locally grown apples were ready beginning of August! [see Hazellnuts]

The squirrels must have been watching, thinking that is kind of him, he is collecting the nuts for us, as I then noticed my pile of nuts went down and in the end I did not get to eat a single one. Once again the squirrels had them all.

The catkins are now appearing. Strange there are no catkins on the bush nearest my house. I always see them looking out through my French windows. A neighbour has been trespassing during my absence. I suspect has damaged or poisoned my bush. It is looking quite dead.

Hazel nuts found in the shops and on markets are either imported or commercially grown. They are vastly inferior to the wild hazel nuts which taste far better and are not dried up.

If you do pick from the woods and hedgerows, leave some for the squirrels, its is their winter supply of food. I only wish the squirrels knew they were supposed to leave some for me, not as they do, strip my trees bare leaving nothing for me

Hazel is a tree or bush of hedgerows and woods. In the woods coppiced. If coppiced after a few years, used as brushwood in ovens, if left longer used as handles for hoes and rakes and brooms.

If in ancient woods and hedgerows, they represent the remains of the post-glacial woods that covered England. These woods and hedgerows have wonderful ground flora.

Few of these woods are now worked or coppiced. As a result, the ground flora is being shaded and dying, as are the butterflies which needed sunny patches.

I recall meeting an elderly lady when I was surveying many of these ancient woods in the 1980s. She told me of being able to ride through the woods in a carriage along the woodland rides. She also told me that the last time the woods were coppiced was the Second World War when there was an urgent need for pits props. She said they had not been coppiced fpr many years before then nor have they been coppiced since. She said when the woods were coppiced there was a riot of colour as all the ground flora came into flower which lasted two years.

The hedgerows need to be periodically layered. This is skilled work and labour intensive. The farmers use tractors to give the hedgerows a short back and sides. The net result is the hedge becomes leggy, holes appear at ground level through which livestock can force their way through. The hedge loses its value to the farmer and ends up being grubbed up.

On the Reading to Gatwick train, after passing through Ash, the train passes through ancient woodland before reaching Guildford. From Guildford to Redhill, the train runs parallel to the North Downs and ancient woodlands can be seen.

The book on ancient woodlands is Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape. Also The History of the Countryside, which is more general on the evolution of the English countryside. Both are by Oliver Rackham.

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