Hazel is probably the most historically useful timber in Britain. The hazel bush grows quickly and ‘coppices’ easily. Of course it also produces nuts which are the favourite foods of squirrels. Unfortunately grey squirrels dont mind chewing on the sour, unripe nuts, so few nuts make it to maturity.
Since prehistoric times rods of hazel have been used to make tools, arrows, animal pens, fences, walking sticks, thatched roof pegs and houses. Hazel rods are one of the prime ingredients in ‘wattle and daub’ construction.
The hazel is culturally important and unsurprisingly has its own detailed folklore. ln various parts of the country it was believed that the unripened nuts were protected by two mischievous goblins called Churnmilk Peg and Melsh Dick. A hazel rod was used by St. Patrick to dispatch the serpents from lreland. In Scotland hazel was a portent of good luck and a charm against witches, especially if two nuts were found joined together.