I visited the magnificent Burghley House in Stamford last week to collect acorns and sweet chestnuts from the superb ancient trees growing on the estate. This year Peter Glassey, head forester, showed me a Castanea sativa that is over 600 years old and the seed I collected from this tree will be ready to sell within our Heritage range in 2018 and as bigger trees in our instant impact range in 2023. Tree growing is a long term business! Built in the mid 1550s by William Cecil under the reign of Elizabeth 1st, this wonderful old tree was already over 100 years old when the estate took shape and it still thrives today under the care of Peter who safeguards these ancient trees from the needs of agriculture.
My criteria for collecting seed is simple. The parent has to be a magnificent specimen of great age which proves to me that it has withstood the rigours of our variable climate for many centuries. If a trees has withstood great freezes, floods, droughts, storm force winds and intense summers then its offspring will be made of stern stuff! I also select on seed size and like to pick straight from the tree rather than from fallen seed collected from the ground. My final criteria is patience. I last collected seed from a very ancient oak in Northamptonshire 4 years ago and it hasn’t set any acorns since. However the tree is such a belter that I visit in September one per year to check up on it, waiting and always hoping for another bonanza year!
The Quercus robur, English Oak, from Burghley are wonderful and the estate is also known for its great avenues of mature Tilia, Lime, that support lots of mistletoe. All the vistas and avenues lead back to the house itself which has a fairy-tale quality to it. It you make a visit I would also strongly recommend its Orangery Tea Rooms which round off my seed collecting days very nicely!
My thanks to Peter and the Estate for letting me collect seed from Burghley, it is always a great day out.
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