You cannot have missed the start of the chestnut season. Whether it's excitement at finding some huge shiny conkers or the prickly appearance of sweet chestnuts, already being plundered by squirrels! I'm often amazed by the sheer number of sweet chestnut trees in my local area. While some say they were brought by the Romans that's in doubt but they are native to Southern Europe, so maybe with the effects of climate change they are in the right place here and now?
The very prickly shells of the sweet chestnut usually hold a small cluster of nuts and some can be quite large. They are the ones to roast on an open fire, or many of the nuts can be used for chestnut stuffing for your Christmas dinner! You can also make flour from them. I know someone who eats the nuts raw, after peeling off the shell but I've never been tempted.
I always think conker, or horse chestnut shells look like the first Sputnik launched by the Russians as the first Earth satellite in 1957. They're just a ball with a few spikes on the sides. The conkers are bigger than most sweet chestnuts but not edible, containing a poison, they're not likely to kill you but they will make you sick. Some animals can eat them.
Horse chestnut trees are struggling against various problems including a canker that affects the bark and stops them taking up water. They are also affected by a bacteria that, in dry seasons, causes the leaves to turn brown and very unattractive. The horse chestnut trees I'm finding now are largely turning brown ahead of many species, sweet chestnut trees are still mainly green.
Take the kids out to find them, it will keep them occupied on your walks, but take some bags with you to carry their goodies!
You will definitely find some on most walks, but definitely on the brilliant Wishmoor, Old Dean walk on the website!