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Golden chestnuts

Golden chestnuts - photo by Hilary Beck Burridge

These old sweet chestnuts are on the Gaddesden Estate and can be admired from the Chiltern Way footpath which crosses the field in which they grow. In February 2010 Project volunteers recorded special trees on the estate as part of a training event.

Most of the specimen trees in the park are believed to have been planted during the 18th century which is when the Halsey family, who moved to Great Gaddesden in 1458, made a number of improvements on their land. This included building the Golden Parsonage in 1717 and Gaddesden Place, which was finished in 1774.

The sweet chestnuts are close to the Golden Parsonage. They are the survivors of trees said to have been planted in the shape of HH, for Henshaw Halsey who masterminded many of these improvements, in the early 18th century. With only these trees remaining plus a few stumps and hollows where trees once were, it is not possible to work out the size or alignment of the HH on the ground.

The girth of the largest tree was measured at 8.17 metres, making it one of the largest of the species measured by the Project to date. The height of the tallest was estimated at just under 30 metres, but height measurements (never very accurate without expensive equipment) in this case were affected by crown dieback and recent tree surgery.

Golden chestnuts - photo by Elizabeth Hamilton

Sweet chestnuts are native to S. Europe, W. Asia and N. Africa. They are thought to have been introduced by the Romans and have been much planted in woods and as specimen trees. Due to its value for fencing, the species is widely grown as coppice in southern and eastern England (some still worked) and used to make chestnut pale fencing (the sort that is linked with wire and rolls up). Sweet chestnuts are very long-lived (Mitchell suggests 600 years+).

The Project also recorded some ancient sweet chestnuts  near Luton. There are more ancient sweet chestnuts in Rickmansworth. Gaddesden Estate also contains a lime avenue.

Getting There

Can be seen from the Chiltern Way

Location

Gaddesden Row

Grid Reference

TL049126

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