Tuesday 30 July 2013

Sweet Chestnut

It was as a picture from the past.

I happened on this simple covered work area in the corner of the wood, when out exercising mutt the other day. In fact, it was the day of the llama encounter, and I had gone off with my own preferred four-legged walking companion. Looking at the tops of the trees, the tell-tale long creamy-white, bottle-brush-lke flowers told me that this wood consisted almost entirely of sweet chestnuts - a tree I had become familiar with during a working holiday in the area many years ago. This species of tree is prevalent in this corner of 'the garden of England' and comes into flower around this time of year, eventually producing a crop of the winter favourite, the edible sweet chestnut. However, it was another, just as important but less recognised sweet chestnut product that was of interest here.

Armed with just my little G12, I started to take a couple of shots of the set-up, and before I knew it, I was taking shots to tell the whole story. To some, it may be mundane and un-interesting, but to those with a connection to trees, timber or wood products, it probably sets certain senses to alert. To those who think they might find this post boring, I apologise in advance but you never know, you might just find out something you didn't know if you dare to read on!

Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa is actually a member of the beech family and is not related to the Horse Chestnut.

Here, a lone oak makes a stand.

In this area of Kent /
East Sussex, the trees are grown in coppiced woodlands.

Having grown to the required size, they are cut into sections and cleaned of the bark

Having been stripped...

...and chipped

...they are cleaved and turned into bundles of stakes.

Certainly gives a new meaning to stake and chips!

So, looking familiar yet?

You might just realise that these bundles of stakes are what eventually end up as fencing material. The type of temporary fencing that in the past, was put around disused land. The fences that were strung together by two bands of looped wire. However, today they are often made into trellises, arches or ornate fencing panels. Larger stakes being made into fence posts and in the past, the very large straight sections were also made into hop poles.
(So now the beer connection comes with the stake and chips too!)

The fact that sweet chestnut is used for fencing is purely due to its' properties, as it is well known as being durable and long lasting without the use of preservatives.

However, what fascinated me about this set-up, was that non-industrial artisan production methods were still being used, and whilst time may have mostly left this production method behind in favour of mass production, there was one thing that stayed the same...

...the importance of having the right equipment to do the job!


  1. Brilliant. I didn't know that, and I'm mighty glad to see they have a kettle!

    1. Thanks Su. I like to add a little bit of 'learn something new every day' to my posts ;-)

  2. Love this. I studied forestry (and law, to make it interesting) and own some woods, so this post is great, as are the photos.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. That is an interesting mix!


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