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Fact file: Horse Chestnuts

Horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) are actually a non-native species, introduced in the 16th century from Turkey, and planted widely in parks, streets, and gardens. This is why you rarely find them in woodlands.

Horse chestnuts can grow up to 40 meters tall and live for over 300 years. This tree species is well known for their beautiful, shiny, deep brown coloured conkers which are enclosed in spiky green cases: an annual marker of autumn and a true childhood treasure!

In winter and early spring, you can identify horse chestnuts by their buds, which are large, dark reddish-brown, oval shaped, and very sticky. By May the trees flower, producing individual flowers with 4 or 5 petals in a beautiful white and pale pink colour. In summer they are instantly recognisable because of their large palmate (hand like) leaves which have 5-7 toothed (jagged and serrated), separate leaflets.

Nobody is quite sure of how the horse chestnut got its English name, but when the leaves fall they leave a mark on the bark which looks a little like a horse shoe with nail holes. Conkers have also been used in horse medicine in the past, which again could have been the origin of the name.

It probably goes without saying that horse chestnuts are now most famous for producing conkers, which have been an autumnal entertainment provider to children since the mid-1800s when the first game of conkers was recorded.

It is said that placing conkers around the house will keep spiders away, although if you choose to use this spider scaring method beware- conkers are mildly poisonous.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance- please read

Please note that, following Government guidelines and the fact UK Chief Medical Officers have now raised the Coronavirus (COVID-19) risk to the UK from moderate to high, Ribble Rivers Trust are taking precautions, and making changes to our day to day operations.

Some Ribble Rivers Trust staff are now working from home. If you wish to speak to a specific member of staff and you know their mobile phone number or email address please contact them in this way. Otherwise please contact us in the usual way.

Volunteer event cancellations

Dear volunteers,

It is with regret that we announce that we are postponing all volunteer activity with Ribble Rivers Trust. We know there are many benefits to volunteering, including the positive boost to mental and physical health, the chance to meet others and contribute positively to your local area. However, given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the most recent Government advice – asking everybody in the UK to stay at home and only go out for essentials such as food and medicine – we feel that continuing to include volunteers in the limited work we are able to do now would put people at unnecessary risk and be irresponsible. We all want to improve and protect our environment and rivers, but to do that we need to stay healthy and this must be our priority for the time being. We will continue to keep you up to date with the work we are able to do and will organise new volunteer days as soon as we possibly can. Please stay connected with us over the coming weeks and keep yourselves safe and well.

Refer to gov.uk/coronavirus for up to date information and guidance.

We will come through this and our environment and rivers will still need you, let’s make sure we’re all ready for it when the time comes.

Yours faithfully,

Jack Spees.