Monday, October 15, 2012

Old walnut tree

click photo to enlarge
The walnut tree was introduced into Britain by the Romans. Its name comes from the Germanic wallnot and the Old English wahlhnuttu, the first part of the word meaning "foreign" or "from the Roman lands", to distinguish it from the native North European hazel nut.

It slowly spread from Roman towns and villas to medieval monasteries, farmhouses and the gardens of the wealthy. However, the main agents of its dispersal across especially southern England were rooks and squirrels. Walnut trees were valued not only for the nuts that could be stored and eaten through the winter, but also for the hard, strongly figured wood and the oil that could be extracted from it. In his seminal book, "Silva" (1662), John Evelyn advocated planting the walnut tree. The beautiful burred wood was useful for veneers to be applied to cheaper timbers, as well as for gun butts and stocks.

When I lived in the north of England I rarely saw walnut trees. In the Fens of Lincolnshire they appear to be fairly common in gardens and hedgerows, with the occasional specimen tree growing to its full size in more open spaces. Squirrels bury nuts in our garden from some nearby walnut trees and at most times of year we have several sending up shoots and leaves in the most unlikely of places. The example shown in today's photograph is much bigger than most I see, and must be a hundred or more years old. It is slowly falling apart: large limbs have been lost and the crown appears to be dead. Apparently the field in which it stands was pasture until relatively recently, and the tree now struggles on surrounded by wheat, peas, brassicas, potatoes and sundry other vegetable crops, as well as passing tractors and harvesters. I took my photograph in the late afternoon as the sky darkened apocalyptically and a shaft of sunlight illuminated the tree, showing off its ragged shape against the black clouds.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 168mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/160
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On