I feel sure we have all had enough pests and diseases to last us a lifetime (however much that may be these days), but you can’t get away from them, can you?

Suffice to say my two most dramatic infections are both showing alarming signs of threatened health. By which I mean my trees are suffering, not, as I write, your diarist. And I am all too aware that social distancing for elms and ash might be far more difficult to achieve than the standards now being imposed on the citizens of Liverpool and Manchester.

But we must look on the positive side. Norway maple, beech, for colour. Conkers and acorns for seeds. And walnuts. And contributing to our national effort to plant more trees we have, around here, an unlikely ally: grey squirrels, which are busy planting these fruits all over the place. I find walnut and horse chestnut seedlings coming up all over the garden, all planted by squirrels. Like the squirrels, I find it difficult to ignore conkers. The shell, with its beautifully designed outer layer and prickles, which falls apart to reveal that wonderful design, compartmented to contain the nuts themselves, their irresistible colour; you just have to pick them up.

So, every day, a few more finish up in the house where sadly they soon lose their freshness. But it is a daily event, much enjoyed by the dog (whose first morning act is to clear the garden of squirrels) and indeed, by me, as they (the squirrels I mean, not the dogs) scamper along the post-and-rail fence just outside my office window.

There now, who would have thought that Tanarus could ever go sentimental over either conkers or squirrels? This lockdown has a great deal to answer for.

But talking of pests, a walk in the forest got me picking up acorns. This must be the best mast year for yonks. I have seedlings of less bountiful years awaiting transplanting in my vegetable beds. This year there really is an abundance of fallen fruit under every oak. Down here, the wild boar are having a feast, but there’s still millions more falling. Will this be the year that a proliferation of natural regeneration on a scale common enough in France, but rarely seen here, produces a whole generation of new oaks? What caused all this bounty, anyway? We sure had some unusual weather patterns last summer, didn’t we? First, in the flowering season, some hot and dry conditions, then the reverse with rain followed by a ripening season of high temperatures and long hours of sunshine. Not what we are used to. Could it be the first noticeable impact of climate change in our area? Are acorns and conkers the first positive results?

READ MORE: 300 diseased trees to be felled at National Trust estate

Look, I’m sorry. I said at the beginning of this diary that I would try to keep away from mentioning pests and diseases, and so far we have had Dutch elm disease, ash dieback, squirrels and wild boar. Let’s try another tack. Sweet chestnut. Not far from here is an enclosure of the forest called, appropriately, Chestnut Hill. It contains some massive chestnut trees, and is popular at this time of the year with locals who can be seen gathering nuts, which are better tasting than conkers but less accessible because of the prickles. The seed trees are huge. Many of them show spiral grain and, from time to time, one of these monsters falls to the ground.

Among the chestnuts are some quite magnificent oaks, well over 200 years old, and of a superb quality. Again there are the occasional casualties, which, because of the nature and topography of the wood, are doomed to rot, as extracting a few huge logs – even with modern machinery – is clearly impractical. But such calamities open up the forest floor to light and, as of now, a carpet of oak seedlings going into next season.

So I have avoided running on about leaf miners, storms and tempests, acute oak problems and indeed about ink disease. Or squirrels or wild boar. And I have discretely avoided bringing in beech, which has had a poor mast year round here. Beech was identified many years ago as being the tree species most vulnerable to global warming. I remember as a schoolboy pocketing handfuls of beech mast then picking off the protective outer shell and enjoying the unique and distinctive flavour of the beech nuts. Climate change?

The wind is blowing, the leaves are falling, another season goes round. Trees have it tough I reckon, but show great resilience even in the face of a whole legion of threats. I’d like to think that we are similarly blessed as we face what must surely be a difficult winter ahead for our own species.

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