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Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 15:52 UK
Wood proves fertile for chestnuts
Sweet chestnuts
It is believed that the Romans brought sweet chestnuts to Stour Wood

The RSPB Reserve at Stour Wood near Manningtree is a good place to gather sweet chestnuts in the autumn.

RSPB warden Rick Vonk thinks the wood is a fantastic area to collect the nuts, with many people visiting during the October half-term.

"I come here every year for my sweet chestnuts, and so do lots of people who often leave with shopping bags full," he said.

"There is enough to go around, but we don't like the squirrels so much."

There have been some reports that this year has not been a good year for the chestnuts, however Rick is not so sure.

"Every year, everyone says about the first few chestnuts 'ooh they're tiddly, they're really small,'" he said.

"But actually what that's all about is the first fruits that are not very good," he said.

"But we have had virtually no rain, we had some rain about a week ago, and then four weeks ago and that was it.

"That's nowhere near enough to replenish the ground water, and chestnuts need water to swell," he added.

Roman heritage

The sweet chestnut is not a native tree. Rick believes the Romans are responsible for their introduction into Stour Wood.

"In Stour Wood, we think that 2000 years ago the wood was felled, it used to be a small-leafed lime wood.

"Then the Romans, we think, either grubbed it out or just felled it and planted sweet chestnut," said Rick.




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