Weather and care sees bumper crop in North East’s only nuttery

(l-r) Annalise Almond, Sydney Mooney and Jamie Phillips, all aged nine, from Barmston Village Primary School Nurture Group

(l-r) Annalise Almond, Sydney Mooney and Jamie Phillips, all aged nine, from Barmston Village Primary School Nurture Group

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THESE nutty schoolchildren are helping to squirrel away the harvest in time for winter as part of a nature project.

Washington Old Hall has had a bumper hazelnut harvest, so pupils from nearby Barmston Village Primary School dropped by to help staff collect this autumn’s yield.

Despite there being a shortage of hazelnuts globally this year due to a cold spring in Turkey, the source of 70 per cent of the world’s supply, the trees in what is believed to be the North East’s only dedicated nuttery have produced a cracking crop.

Sarah Murray, the Washington Village tourist attraction’s learning and interpretation officer, said: “Maybe it’s all the warm weather we have had, or the fact we’ve been doing a lot of work to maintain the nuttery and also improve it as a wildlife habitat, but this year we’ve had an exceptionally abundant nut crop – more, I think, than at any time in the 25 years or so since the trees were planted.

“Hazelnuts have been grown in gardens since the 16th century and, just as we are now, the nuts would have been picked by hand and stored for use over the winter.

“With the hazel trees bulging with clusters of nuts, they were in need of a helping hand, so it’s great the children have been able to come along and help.

“They have had great fun harvesting the hazelnuts and working together as a team.”

The children, aged five to 11, gathered up basketfuls of cob and filbert nuts, all set to be eaten over the coming weeks.

The fruits of their labours will also be on display at a nature conservation day being held on Sunday, October 19, at the National Trust-run hall.

It will showcase progress on a three-year project to develop a rural idyll in the middle of urban Washington.

The youngsters are regular visitors to Washington Old Hall to take part in a plot-to-plate allotment-style scheme teaching them cooking and gardening skills.

The children have also spent time in the nuttery learning about nature and sustainable living.

Mitchell Davy, 10, said: “It’s been my favourite thing, and it’s sad it only happens once a year.

“I’d never eaten hazelnuts before, but I love them. They have a really gooey texture, and they taste like chocolate.

“Since I’ve been coming here, I’ve grown my own tomatoes, blackberries and herbs at home.

“I’ve done it because I’ve been taught here and because I’m now interested in growing things.

“I really look forward to coming here, and I like being in the garden and seeing what’s growing.”

For more on celebratory harvest-themed events this autumn, go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/northeast.