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Under a Spreading Chestnut Tree ...

semi-overcast 19 °C

Under a Spreading Chestnut Tree …
The sun’s shining and it’s conker time here in the southwest of England. Now … if you’re saying, “What on earth is a conker?” you are obviously not an old Brit.
In our first couple of days in England we walked the battlefield where King Alfred’s army fought in 878A.D.; viewed the battlefield where Cromwell’s Roundheads were defeated by the King Charles 1st’s Royalist in 1643; we’ve stood at the base of Silbury Hill – the World’s largest Neolithic monument – built 4,000 years ago, and we’ve meandered the Medieval streets of Lacock where the world’s first photograph was taken by William Fox-Talbot. Here is Lacock Abbey where William set up his pinhole camera and snapped a shot of his dining room window in 1835.
All of the above, plus the ancient circles of stones at Stonehenge and Avebury are within 10 miles of Jim’s boyhood home.
Every time we return to Europe we are stunned by the wealth of historical monuments – and by the increasingly exorbitant entry fees. However, much can be seen without payment because it is part of everyday life. Behind the modern facades of almost any High Street are buildings dating back to the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries. Five-hundred-year-old hotels and houses are ten a penny here and there are numerous buildings dating back to Roman times. Here is a typical scene…
And here is an example of another historical feature which can be freely seen…

Giant white horses like this, along with other allegorical symbols, have been carved into Britain’s chalk hillsides since Neolithic times. This is the Westbury White Horse and it marks the site of a 4,000 year-old Iron Age settlement. We marveled at the incredible artistic abilities of ancient man; of the symmetry and style of their carving; and, above all, the lasting quality of work which has brought this monument to us in such pristine condition. Then we climbed the hill and discovered that the whole thing was recently plastered in concrete donated by the local cement works. Oh well! Nothing lasts forever.
Now – back to “conkers.” From time immemorial English schoolboys have been rounding up the large brown nuts of the hors chestnut trees – not to eat, but to thread onto a bootlace with a knot tied in the end…one nut per lace. Armed with his conker the young lad would sally forth and challenge any similarly armed young man to a dual – Nut to Nut at dawn. Nowadays, the mere mention of young men smashing their nuts together could be considered unsavoury but, be assured, it’s all clean fun. The nuts are smashed together until one breaks and the triumphant nut goes off in search of his next victim. Jim was thrilled to discover that the spreading chestnut tree where he used to pick his nuts fifty years ago was still standing and still supplying conkers to the youth of the ancient market town of Devizes – little changes here.

Posted by Hawkson 08:13 Archived in England

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Hi you two...once again, it is a sublime pleasure to receiver your outstanding travelogue. Sounds wonderful. What fun to explore Jim's roots together (hmmmm...a new variation on conkers??)

by Sharron

A different world and a fascinating one. Nope, had no idea what a conker was.
Good night from one nut to another.Trudy

by taboyle

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