Lorna from the Monks Walk Group has been in touch to say that unfortunately the beech tree in the gardens has been lost due to the Meripilus Giganteus fungus. The good news is that Staffordshire County Council is providing a walnut tree as a replacement.
I don’t know much about fungi or walnuts, so I did a quick bit of research. Apparently, Meripilus Gigantus also known as Giant Polypore is a common cause of death for mature beech trees. It seems we can’t even get our revenge on this fungus by eating it as, although not poisonous, it doesn’t taste particularly good. However, it is sometimes eaten by mistake as it looks like the Hen of the Woods, which is a tasty, edible fungus (and very good in risotto according to Morgan from Walsall Wildlife!).
In one of my all time favourite books, ‘England in Particular’, the entry for walnuts tells us that the trees were originally brought to Britain by the Romans (the Old English was wealhhnutu which means ‘foreign nut’)and amongst other places were planted in monastery gardens, so it seems that Staffordshire County Council have made an appropriate choice!
A huge walnut wood was planted to the north-east of Ashby de la Zouch around 10 years ago. Jaguar Lount wood is the largest plantation of walnut trees in Britain and as you might guess from the name, the project was sponsored by Jaguar Cars and it includes an area where they are researching the the growth of different varieties for timber and for their nuts. You can see the Forestry Commission leaflet here.
Of course, it probably goes without saying that perhaps most importantly of all, walnuts are a crucial ingredient in Walnut Whips. Much tastier than Meripilus Gigantus.
England in Particular – Sue Clifford & Angela King