Monday, 20 September 2010

I went walking...autumn through my childhood eyes

For those of you old enough to have learnt to read using the Janet and John books "I went walking" was one of the series of these early readers. I still have a copy (my Mum was a teacher) and the illustrations are just so nostalgic for me. I was a 60s something child and they still evoke very fond memories. They really do seem such a long time ago. I appreciate these were originally written many years before I started school but they were in use for many decades in primary schools in England. We also used the Peter and Jane ladybird books. Without sounding like a grumpy old woman there was a definite innocence to childhood then. I secretly think that some children still want this, my own children  loved to read the Enid Blyton stories, going to camp with the brownies/guides/scouts etc.

Yesterday I really did go walking,  looking for the first signs of autumn in my area. I think I will never fully grow up because I still get so much pleasure from nature and it's changing seasons. As I child my brother and I were free to explore and would go off to the local park at this time of year in search of treasure.....aka the first conkers of autumn.

When my children were of primary school age (in the 1990s) as we walked to school in Septembers we always looked out for the first conkers. Even when my son was at secondary school he would come home with trouser pockets full of the first shiny conkers. I often only discovered these when his trousers had already gone through the washing machine!

I noticed some of the trees are developing  their autumn colours.

I also noticed many other signs of autumn including berries, rose hips and holly berries all getting ready to feed the wildlife during the winter.

We have water voles in the river banks of our local park but over the last 27 years I have seen them on only 3 occasions, never when I had my camera. They were keeping very quiet on this day! I would really have loved to have got a snap to show you.
But what I was really looking for were the  Horse Chestnut trees to see if they had begun to drop their treasure.
                      This is a very large horse chestnut which grows near the high street. I noticed in its branches above me lots of conker cases, but they all seemed to be closed tightly shut with no sign of their treasure inside.

I continued on my walk and found lots more trees but all seem to have their conkers tightly shut away. However when I had nearly reached home again I spotted some cases which had begun to split and the shiny conkers inside were beginning to protrude!
And on the floor I had even more luck by finding one of these!
Yes a closed conker case!! Often as a child we would find these early in the season and stamp on them to open them up only to find the conker inside was still white and not quite yet ripe. It was always so disappointing!
I brought the case home and carefully split it open to reveal.................................

Yes...treasure, a beautiful brown shiny conker. I carefully peeled it out of the shell and a single conker was revealed in all its glory...............

I still enjoy finding these so much and guess who else did too.............................................

Yes Billy :0) Cats really are SO inquisitive aren't they?

I hope this may have evoked some fond childhood memories for you. I am looking forward to when the conkers start to rain out of the trees over the next few weeks but there is nothing like finding the first ripe conker of autumn!
Bye for now,
Jane x


  1. Hi Jane
    My first reading book was Dick and Dora and the dog was called Nip and the orange fluffy cat was Fluff!
    When we were out walking yesterday a conker case fell out of a tree beside us, so I of course picked it up, like you hoping for a nice conker! Alas it was only part of a case and the conker was missing. A little squirrel up the tree had helped himself and thrown away the bit that was of no use to him!!
    How lucky to be living so near to the very rare water vole. :)
    Have a good week Jane!
    Vivienne x

  2. Hi Vivienne, sorry there was no treasure in your conker case this time, I'm glad it's not just me that still finds these such a joy! The last time we saw our water vole (never sure how many there are but there must be at least a breeding pair)was late this spring, he was sitting on an island in the middle of the ponds, amongst the sprouting foliage, cleaning his coat, not realising we had spotted him.Fantastic creature. Everyone else was focussed on the ducks nearby and oblivious to him.Such a rare treat.
    Have a good week too,
    Jane x

  3. Hello Jane,

    I need to enjoy these memories and experiences of yours via your blog only because I am not familiar with those pretty books or conker treasures (never seen one like that, they're very rare around here!). But how did I enjoy the pictures still, thank you for sharing! And that little inspector Billy, always on top of the things :)

    Happy, happy week!


  4. It's so interesting Mia to find out how things/traditions which we regard as so typical here are not seen in other countries.

    Here in England children thread a conker onto a length of string and tie a knot underneath so that it can hang. They then have conker "fights" where another person tries to hit it by striking it with their own stringed conker and damage it. It's actually quite hard as you often miss! They take turns with strikes. The winner is whoever's conker remains on the string as gradually bits fall off each conker as they get damaged.
    We had great fun as kids and were even known sometimes to soak our conkers in vinegar to harden them...but really that was cheating!

    Billy likes his name of Inspector Billy but he foolishly thinks that will get him extra food treats...hmmmm!
    Happy Monday,
    Love Jane x

  5. Thanks Nicola, so good to " see " you here!
    Jane x

  6. Hi Jane, Oh my! what memories Janet and John I went walking, yes, I remember!
    Seemingly strange now living in the United States conkers are referred to as buckeyes, a bit of home is here. Yet, non-edible too.
    My neighbor has a conkers tree so nice to see.

    Have a wonderful week!
    Hugs, Dani

  7. That's really interesting to hear that you call conkers buckeyes in the states. I was about to say what an unusual name but then I should think conker is a pretty strange name too! Glad the post brought back some of your memories from over here Dani.
    Enjoy your week too.
    Jane x

  8. Hi Jane,

    We read both Janet and John and Peter and Jane at primary school, we were also allowed to play conkers back then (and Bulldog) and Autumn highlight was bringing our 'dangerous eye removing' stringed ones into school.

    I spent some time after school today with my youngest picking conkers off the ground, he loved finding unopened ones that we could crack together.

    Thanks for the memories!


  9. Hi Beth,

    It's such a shame when mad health and safety gets in the way of a game of conkers! How dangerous can 1 conker on a string really be!

    As I walked home from work today I saw a Mum with her little girl in her buggy picking up piles of shiney conkers, they really have started "raining" down here: amazing what a difference a few days makes. Great time of the year!

    Jane x


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