Magic in the Forest
Olive and I spent a while gathering conkers on our walk to forest school this week. There must be something about them that calls to the treasure-seeking child within all of us, because I still find it incredibly exciting to see a big, shiny conker lying on the floor. Why don’t acorns and hazelnuts have the same magic? It must stem back to that back-to-school autumn feeling, when we still collected conkers to battle in the playground, vinegar-soaking and oven-baking to cheat our way to the top. Do you remember when conkers were said to have been banned in UK schools? Turns out it was all Daily Mailer rubbish - one of those ‘health and safety gone mad’ stories that emerged when one single school banned them, and another required the children to wear goggles.
Thanks for reading Tiffany’s Substack! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Conker trees, more formally known as horse chestnut trees, are often found on village greens. I discovered this when researching my upcoming book The Bridleway, as they were planted near the village smithy to cast shade on sunny days. The ‘horse’ part of the chestnut’s name has two origins: When the leaves fall, the stalk breaks away, revealing a scar on the twig that looks like a horseshoe. When crushed, they were also thought to relieve horses of coughs.
Olive stuffed most of the conkers we found in her pocket, but I kept one for myself as a good luck charm for a productive day of work. It’s smooth and shiny and lovely to hold; a talisman for the blustering autumn world outside.