A sure sign that the season is changing, the sound of falling acorns is upon us in Beetley.
I should give some background, to make this all easier to picture. I could just post a lot of photos, but that would be far too easy. When we first viewed this house, one of the things we most liked about it, was the presence of two large oak trees. One is at the front of the property, and the other in the back garden. On a Google Earth viewing, they can easily be seen, dominating the comparatively small plot. As it is a bungalow, they do not intrude on the roof, and provide valuable shade, as well as an attractive ‘canopy’ over most of the property. They are both very old, perhaps over three hundred years or more, with the larger one in the garden, though the one at the front is a little higher. They also overhang three neighbouring houses, though they were not there when this bungalow was built, in 1979.
We were informed by the previous owner, that they are subject to a preservation order. They cannot be felled, or deliberately damaged, and any work carried out on them must be done by an approved arborist. This can be expensive, but only has to be done every five years or so, to keep the classic shape of the oak tree. The nearby houses also have to contribute to this, as the parts of the tree that overhang their properties are deemed to be their responsibility. The previous owner had lived here since 1987, and had undertaken extensive renovations, and improvements to the original bungalow. These included an extension at the rear, to enlarge the former kitchen into a comfortable kitchen/diner, and the building of a shed extension, immediately connected to the rear of the detached garage. This left us inheriting three flat roofs, the garage, shed, and kitchen. That was fine, as there was still plenty of space in the garden, as well as a good-sized patio. We bought the house in 2011, and though we could not move in at the time, we would come up for weekends and holidays.
Staying here for two weeks in September 2011, we first noticed the sound of the falling acorns. They are quite large things, and are naturally hard, the inner nut the size of a bullet, contained in a durable outer casing. The trees are around 40-50 feet to the top branches, so the farthest acorns can build up speed, as they plummet to the ground. Unfortunately, most do not make it to the softer grass, or surrounding borders. Instead, they hit the flat roofs, like a constant barrage of gunfire. Bird activity in the trees, or strong winds, can provoke an attack by hundreds of small hard projectiles within moments. If you happen to be outside, you will be showered by those missing the roofs, and others will be bouncing around, like ricocheting missiles. At night, the drumming of these things constantly falling can make it hard to sleep. Even if there is a lull, there will still be the occasional thud, as one strikes. I don’t know which is worse, the continuous pattering, or the intermittent thwacks.
After a good scattering, the lawn and outside areas have to be seen to be believed. Acorns, twigs, and bits of leaf can lay up to two inches deep everywhere. As you start to sweep them, the sheer size of the problem becomes apparent. A whole wheelie bin is filled in minutes, followed by bag after bag of nuts and shucks, which naturally, are still falling, even as you try to clear the first load. The amount of these things is incredible, and they just keep coming. The gutters are filled, and have to be cleared out every couple of days. The flower beds are inundated, and they have to be cleared as well, or we will end up with hundreds of small oak trees. The flat roofs have a crunchy topping of fresh acorn, but it is hardly worth trying to shift them, as they will eventually dry out, and do no harm up there. It is a necessary but time-consuming job, that becomes boring, very quickly. When they are not hitting the flat roofs, they are striking the main sloping roof, bouncing down the tiles like the ball in a pinball machine. They didn’t tell us about the acorns. Oh no.
Some suggest that it would be a good idea to ‘import’ squirrels, in the hope that they would eat them all. Despite being portrayed clutching acorns, it seems that squirrels do not actually eat them. In fact, the only animal that can eat, and digest, these hard kernels, is a pig. Pigs naturally forage in woodland, and have developed a taste for acorns over the centuries. However, despite the presence nearby of hundreds of farmed pigs, they are not allowed to eat our acorns. EU rules are strict, when it comes to the diet of animals for human consumption, so I am not able to drive my bags of nuts over to the pig farm, and tip them into the food hoppers. They go for composting, (hopefully) removed in Council vehicles, or by me in the car, to the local dump. The carbon footprint of the humble acorn is greater than my own.
It will be the leaves next. Just read this post, substitute ‘leaves’ for ‘acorns’, and you will get the idea.